Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Aviv Cohen's Pocket from the Promised Land Hits their Groove at Spike Hill-August 21, 2007

The second night of the 5th Annual Williamsburg Jazz Festival jammed to the beat of Aviv Cohen's Pocket from the Promised Land Monday night at Spike Hill. The festival kicked off the previous night with festival-founder Jesse Selegnut and supporting band Noir's performance at Surf Bar. Aviv Cohen's Pocket performed as a special trio with Yotam Silberstein on electric guitar, Dana Leong on cello, and Aviv Cohen on drums, a break from their usual formation with Jason Lidner on organ.
Spike Hill served as the venue for the Jazz Festival's second night after it opened at Surf Bar Sunday night to a packed house. Spike Hill was crowded as well with a lively crowd of jazz fans. The bar is divided into two sections--a bar room and a room with a stage. Some of the noise from the bar room leaked over to the venue side only when the music was soft. The crowd at Spike Hill loved Aviv Cohen. While I was interviewing him in between sets, three different people interrupted us to tell him how much they loved his music.
Aviv Cohen is originally from Jerusalem, Israel. He moved to New York two years ago to pursue his music career and lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn. While he is predominantly a jazz drummer, his influences range from hip-hop to electronic drum and bass to African music back to jazz, all of which are apparent in his aggressive playing style. He commands a certain attention and presence on stage. Not only does he solo frequently, his sound had little competition in the trio.
The Pocket's performance pushed the envelope. From their instrumentation to their style, their sound is truly unique and original. Elements of funk, free jazz, reggae, rock n' roll, and electronic music were all present in their presentation. Their music was filled with long grooves, and as advertised, an incredibly deep pocket. Dana Leong's cello had just the right amount of distortion from his effect pedals to bring a deep bass when plucked and a colorful melancholy bow.
While the fist set was outstanding, the second set took things up a notch when Assaf Yuria was invited onstage to play his tenor saxophone. His presence in the three numbers on which accompanied only enhanced the funky jazz dynamic of the performance. He rounded out the ensemble perfectly. His aggressive improvisatory style meshed with The Pocket perfectly, and his chops filled a melodic void. Yuria, Cohen, and Silberstein are all childhood friends. They represent the wave of young Israeli jazz musicians migrating to New York.
Their sound was so sly. All the instruments were perfectly in sync with each other playing intricate rhythms and executing changes. They seemed to creep to a steady beat, extremely effectively using space. While playing as a trio, the band had a minimalist style that allowed the instrumentalists to let their voices be heard, not outshined by each other.
Dana Leong especially benefited from the transparent sound since the cello isn't the loudest instrument in the world. Being able to hear him so clearly drastically improved the sound of the entire ensemble. The cello provided a beautifully unique sound. When plucked, it resembled a bass, but when bowed added a the voice of the classical cello that added a non-traditional element to the jazz ensemble. Leong's cello was amplified and distorted by his effect pedals to add another electronic dimension to the mix.
With the cost of admission being one drink minimum per set, the Williamsburg Jazz Festival is the best deal for quality live jazz in New York City. The cost of admission doesn't rise until Friday night when ten dollars gets you four hours of live jazz at Rose Live Music and then again Saturday night at Laila Lounge. Don't miss the opportunity to hear world-class live jazz for a fraction of the price one might pay at the Blue Note or Jazz Standard.

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