Wednesday 11 December Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avishai played at a sold-out LantarenVenster in Rotterdam. From the moment that trumpet player Cohen entered the stage and pianist Avishai took a seat behind the grand piano, until the encore, about an hour and a half later, the audience listened attentively to the exciting interplay of these two musicians. ‘It’s always a surprise what Yonathan will do,’ said Avishai Cohen. In addition to their own work, they played compositions by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Duke Ellington. There were no style breaks, all the pieces were touched by the Cohen & Avishai brilliance. They know their classics and the American Songbook is part of their musical baggage, but they give this music their own subtle twist. Yonathan Avishai can suggest a swinging rhythm with a lightly played bass line, while he makes shifts with his right hand, changing the musical patterns almost unnoticed and adding surprising new accents.
Cohen plays his trumpet exuberantly, but he is also able to improvise beautifully with a muted instrument. Cohen and Avishai have been playing together for 29 years and they know each other very well, but if you ignored the other visitors, it was as if two young music friends played jazz standards for their own pleasure. They told the audience that they had not lost their musical wonder and that was exactly what their performance proved. People could guess the title of a piece that sounded familiar. During the descending center piece, everything fell into place: Stevie Wonder’s ‘Sir Duke’. A tribute to Duke Ellington, indeed. The last piece was the moving lullaby ‘Shir Eres’ by the Israeli composer Sasha Argov. LanterenVenster: please dim the lights at the back of the stage next time. Thank you.