Critically acclaimed jazz bassist and composer Avishai Cohen is joining forces with New York Latin jazz icon Abraham Rodriguez Jr. for the new project Iroko. The pair’s first single, “The Healer,” co-produced by Cohen and Latin Grammy-winner Javier Limón, is out now on naïve Records. Listen/share HERE.
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 Abi.”
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 are set to perform a residency at New York’s storied Blue Note April 25-30 with a full seven-piece Banda Iroko lineup including Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez (drums, percussion), Yosvany Terry (saxophone, chekere), Diego Urcola (trumpet, trombone), Jose Angel (bongos, vocals) and Virginia Alves (vocals). Tickets are available via the Blue Note website.
Cohen is also appearing at select North American festivals with his trio this summer, including the Montreal Jazz Fest, Toronto Jazz Fest, Ottawa Jazz Festival and the Festival de Jazz de Quebec.
ABOUT AVISHAI COHEN:
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 9 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.
ABOUT ABRAHAM RODRIGUEZ JR.:
Abraham 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, Andy Gonzalez and Conjunto Libre, Michele Rose and New Yoruba, Tania Leon, Alfredo “Chocolateo” 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 and the Oyu Oro Afro-Cuban Dance Ensemble. As a disciple and godson of the famed Afro Cuban percussionist Orlando “Puntilla” Rios, Rodriguez has mastered 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.
BANDA IROKO TOUR DATES
March 12—Paris, FR—Le Chalet SOLD OUT*
April 25-30—New York, NY—Blue Note
July 12—St. Moritz, CH—Festival de Jazz, St. Moritz
July 13—Arles, FR—Les Suds a Arles
July 17—Lyon, FR—Nuits de Fourviere
July 19—Madrid, ES—Noches del Botanico
July 20—Menorca, ES—Cuitadela de Menorca
July 22—Girona, ES—L’Estartit Jazz Festival
July 23—Toulon, FR—Plage du Lourillon
July 25—Bari, IT—tbd
* Iroko World Premiere
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