Looking ahead to releases in the early part of 2014, one of the major highlights announced so far, and just released in France, is the February release in the UK of the latest album from bass star, composer, and vocalist Avishai Cohen whose latest album Almah is released on 10 February. Cohen will play four nights at Ronnie Scott’s in London from 10-14 February during the week of release.

Almah follows on from last year’s Duende, which saw the 43-year-old Israeli bassist, joined by pianist Nitai Hershkovits who also features on Almah as part of the core jazz trio along with the extraordinary young drummer Ofri Nehemya (who appeared with a debuting Eli Degibri in London in March) plus a string section and the oboe/cor anglais of Yoram Lachish.  Almah was recorded in Tel Aviv mostly in June this year, Avishai “with strings” in essence. The strings sound that bit different with the inclusion of two violas rather than one adding a lower register. Cohen has commented: “The two violas create an incredible, deeper and more melancholic sound that combined with the brightness of the oboe, really establishes a special colour.”

The compositions are mostly Cohen’s including a piece composed in memory of a cousin of his who died in an accident while serving in the army and ‘Hayo Hayta’, which appeared on Cohen's 2011 Blue Note album Seven Seas. Of the non originals Thad Jones ‘A Child is Born’, the longest track on the album, a waltz-time ballad recorded by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra that originally featured on the 1970 Blue Note album Consummation, is a main talking point, and also featured in the album’s 10 tracks are a Red Army theme, Moshe Vilenski’s ‘Southern Lullaby’ and an ‘Arab Medley’ featuring melodies by Lebanese singer Samira Tawfik. The tracks are mostly quite short with folk songs from the Sephardic tradition, and the influence of classical music particularly inspired by the Romantic composers at its heart especially when Hershkovits stetches out. It’s also very melodic, opening with ‘Overture (‘Noam op 1’) originally composed for a double bass concerto, and Cohen’s extraordinary metrical facility is heard on ‘Shlosre’, again a link to the joyful abandon of Seven Seas.
Ronnie Scott's club dates planned for the week of Almah’s UK release.
Updated with video added