Photo credit: Javier Limón
Critically acclaimed jazz bassist and composer Avishai Cohen and New York Latin jazz icon Abraham “Abe” Rodriguez Jr. are joining forces for the new full-length record Iroko, out now on naïve Records. The album is co-produced by Cohen and Latin Grammy Award-winner Javier Limón; listen/purchase Iroko HERE.
Cohen and Rodriguez recently shared their interpretation of the classic “Fly Me To The Moon,” along with the originals “The Healer” and “Fahina.”
Of the new record, JAZZIZ says, “this decades-in-the-making project finds the pair exploring a spectrum of Afro-Caribbean styles informed by their respective combined backgrounds in jazz fusion, Afro-Latin jazz, traditional folk music and more.” WNYC’s “New Sounds” notes that “Iroko is a kind of extension of New York’s long history of Latin jazz,” while Philadelphia Weekly raves that “Israeli superstar jazz bassist and composer Avishai Cohen makes genius level music inspired by his homeland. For Iroko with vocalist Abraham Rodriguez Jr., Cohen casts a wider net, into the Afro Caribbean musical continuum, and the results are bold and beautiful.” Afropop Worldwide adds that the record is “seasoned, mature and already a classic.”
The project, decades in the making, began to take shape when Cohen first came to New York in the early ’90s and met Rodriguez while playing small clubs throughout the city. Initially conceived as a duo, the pair explore a spectrum of Afro Caribbean styles informed by their respective combined backgrounds in jazz fusion, Afro-Latin jazz, traditional folk music and more.
Iroko is a long-time dream I have had since knowing and playing with Abraham Rodriguez Jr., a great, unique singer, congero and master of Afro Caribbean music in its full spectrum,” notes Cohen, adding that his longtime dream has been “to do a Latin project with my favorite Latin musicians in New York. It starts with this concept…just me and Abe.”
Rodriguez goes on to explain, “As Mongo Santamaria said, ‘Drum and chant.’ That’s what we have here. It’s universal, and for everyone, young and old. Even those who are bitter, when they hear these songs, will be touched and smile. Those who are angry? We’ll kill them with kindness.”
The pair also recently completed a residency at New York’s storied Blue Note with a full seven-piece Banda Iroko lineup including Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez (drums, percussion), Yosvany Terry (saxophone, chekere), Diego Urcola (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jose Angel (bongos, vocals) and Virginia Alves (vocals). Of the performances, the New York Sun raves, “Everyone in the room was immediately shaking, moving, and ‘chair dancing’ as best we could to that irresistible clave beat.” The Sun goes on to add, “the entire enterprise is driven by Mr. Cohen, whose powerful bassistry introduces and lays down the groove for most numbers, then energetically propels the works forward.”
Cohen is also appearing at select North American festivals with his trio this summer, including the Montreal Jazz FestToronto Jazz FestOttawa Jazz Festival and the Festival de Jazz de Quebec.
Born on a kibbutz in Northern Israel in 1970, Cohen hails from a multicultural family whose roots come from Spain, Greece and Poland. Cohen began playing the piano at age nine but eventually transitioned to the bass after discovering the music of Jaco Pastorius, going on to matriculate at the Music and Arts Academy in Jerusalem and the New School in New York, where he found himself playing in groups with Danilo Perez and Chick Corea. Cohen has gone on to explore Latin, rock, classical, Sephardic and folk musical traditions throughout his award-winning recording career.
Abraham “Abe” Rodriguez, Jr. has performed, recorded and studied for more than 40 years with many of the renowned masters of the Afro Latin and jazz idioms, including Orlando Rios Y Su Nueva Generacion, Manny Oquendo’s Conjunto Libre with Andy Gonzalez, Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-Uba, Tania Leon, Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, Nelson Gonzalez, the Conga Kings, Rafi Malkiel, Ray Santiago, Pupi Legarretta, Pedrito Martinez, Roman Diaz, Francisco “Minini” Zamora, Changuito, Los Afortunados, Kip Hanrahan and many more. Currently Abraham is an active member of the Grupo Folklorico Experimental Nueva Yorquino, the Oyu Oro Afro-Cuban Dance Ensemble and Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-Uba. Rodriguez is a Babalawo/Awo Orunmila (“father of the mysteries” in the Yoruba tradition), and is a spiritual disciple and godson of the famed Afro Cuban master percussionist Chanilu-Ana (owner of the consecrated drums), Orlando Alfonso Rios, better known as “Puntilla.” Rodriguez is a disciple of the music of the Yoruba Orisha tradition. His knowledge and mastery of both the ritual and secular music of the Caribbean has made him one of the most sought-after musicians in the Afro-Latin-jazz music scene.
1. The Healer
2. Abie’s Thing
3. Tintorera
4. It’s A Man’s World
5. Descarga Para Andy
6. Avisale A Mi Vecina—Iroko
7. Thunder Drum
8. Exodus
9. A Bailar Mi Bomba
10. Crossroads
11. Venus
12. A La Loma De Belen
13. Fahina
14. Fly Me To The Moon
July 13—Arles, FR—Les Suds a Arles
July 17—Lyon, FR—Les Nuits de Fourvière
July 19—Madrid, ES—Noches del Botanico
July 27—Deurne, BE—OLT Rivierenhof


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