What joy to rediscover the delights of attending a real live gig. If there are lessons to be learned from this crazy pandemic time of ours, surely one must be to appreciate all kinds of things that we may have taken for granted for too long.
We arrived early last Wednesday evening, as advised by the organizers of the Unplugged in the Patio series at Hansen House in Jerusalem. They said it was to avoid overcrowding, presumably with social distancing in mind.
In fact, the place was sparsely populated when we got there, and only filled up close to the official show start time of 9 p.m. And what an appealing venue to catch your first concert after such a prolonged dearth. Seats and tables were strategically positioned around the balcony surrounding the upper level of the quadrangle, with more scattered around the stage level. I was put in mind of a jazz festival I was fortunate to attend a few years back at BranCastle in Transylvania, a towering 14th century fortress that is also
commonly referred to as Dracula’s Castle.
There, too, the seating arrangement tended toward the charmingly informal with plastic garden chairs dotted around the place.
If you are looking to kick-start the live entertainment experience with a bang, internationally acclaimed trumpeter Avishai Cohen isn’t a bad choice. Ably supported by bassist Barak Mori and drummer Alon Binyamini, I can’t recall ever hearing Cohen play so mellifluously or tenderly.
True, he has quite a few stylistic strings to his bow, ranging from straightahead jazz to more rock-oriented fare, with some orchestral scores betwixt, but this was still surprising stuff from Cohen.
It felt as if he, too, during the pandemic furlough, had time to reflect on life and the way he conveys his thoughts and feelings through his craft. He seemed to be gently coaxing the notes out of his horn, as his lines hovered in the air before settling delicately like morning dew.
In Mori and Binyamini, Cohen had a couple of like-minded cohorts who happily and subtly complemented his leads, providing sumptuous coloring and the odd more spicy element as the evening progressed.
Cohen also unfurled a surprisingly varied repertoire for his post-lockdown comeback, traipsing through the likes the deliciously balladic “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and Glen Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade.” For the latter, which Cohen said he played the first time at the age of 10, he moved onto flugelhorn, which naturally added even more honeyed textures to the sonic bottom line.
The class trio was augmented bya guest spot by popular cellist-vocalist Maya Belsitzman who, while clearly not an out-and-out jazz musician, dovetailed seamlessly with Cohen and even produced a pretty wild and woolly cello solo of her own.There were also some more visceral bluesy vignettes in what was a thoroughly and comprehensively evening’s entertainment, with eight more shows across a broad stretch of genres and styles due to come the Unplugged in the Patio series through August 19.