One Family – One Music.
The remarkable story of 3 Cohens siblings, Yuval, Anat and Avishai, continues with the release of 'Tightrope' on Anzic Records, Oct 22, 2013.

3 Cohens – Tightrope

One of the reasons jazz improvisation excites performer and listener alike is that it is indeed like walking a tightrope – chances are taken, stakes are high. A musician can create thrilling, in-the-moment art, or fall flat. Collective improvisation ups the ante – it’s never a given that multiple players can be so attuned to one another that they know when to listen as well as when to speak. The 3 Cohens – siblings Anat (clarinets, tenor saxophone), Avishai (trumpet) and Yuval (soprano sax) – explore this concept on Tightrope, their fourth album together. Most of the tracks see the three horn players walking that fine titular line without a net – performing a cappella, with no chordal instrument or rhythm section for support; moreover, they venture a sequence of “Conversations" as unaccompanied free improvisations, spontaneously composing the music in interplay.

The sound of intertwined horns was in the ears of all three Cohens early on. A common inspiration growing up in Israel was a 1959 album by the piano-less Gerry Mulligan Quartet featuring Art Farmer, with the brothers and sister naturally drawn to its melody-oriented weave. Tightrope includes two tunes from that band’s book: Farmer’s “Blueport" and Mulligan’s “Festive Minor." There are other pieces from the Cohens’ youth. “Ai Li Lu Li Lu" is a Yiddish lullaby their mother sang to them. The standard “Indiana" underscores their love of Louis Armstrong and the collective improvisation from New Orleans, while Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House" reflects their ties to the bebop tradition. Even the free “Conversations" – spurred by little more than “why don’t you start" or “let’s think long tones" – have their echoes, with the pure polyphony and quotes from Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, etc. evoking the siblings’ early experience in classical ensembles.

But the 3 Cohens don’t only converse amongst themselves on Tightrope. Pianist Fred Hersch came to the studio straight from the airport, joining the siblings for his “Song Without Words" (a piece that both Anat and Avishai had performed on stage with him). With Hersch, they also recorded the Italian ballad “Estaté" made popular in the jazz realm by João Gilberto; and, at the pianist’s suggestion, they captured a playfully baroque version of Thelonious Monk’s “I Mean You." Bassist Christian McBride dropped by the sessions for a spontaneous take on Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me," his woody tone a delightful addition. Drummer Jonathan Blake has played for years live in the 3 Cohens Sextet, and his studio visit yielded a quartet version of Avishai’s grooving original “Black."

Avishai goes lyrically solo for the ballad “There’s No You" (an early hit for Jo Stafford), and the three-horn choir voices Yuval’s “It Might as Well," a spinoff from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “It Might as Well Be Spring." For Avishai’s closing “Mantra," Anat adds dark hues on bass clarinet. Throughout Tightrope, the filial “telepathy" among the 3 Cohens is a marvel but so is the beauty of sound each conveys on his or her instrument. This is an album about balance and buoyancy – and the sheer joy of communicating through music.

— Bradley Bambarger