Song Without Words
Yuval Cohen was a rising star at Berklee on alto saxophonist. Then, surgeons removed a tumor on his spine, leaving the Israeli-born musician temporarily paralyzed. After a detour through law school, Cohen decided to relearn his instrument. Switching to soprano sax, he resumed a solo career and joined his younger siblings — clarinetist and saxophonist Anat and trumpeter Avishai — to form The 3 Cohens.
On Song Without Words, Yuval Cohen performs a set of duets with Israeli pianist Shai Maestro. While Cohen is often the lead voice, this is, without doubt, a meeting of equals. The musicians alternate accompaniment and interplay, their interaction sometimes recalling that of pianist Lennie Tristano and altoist Lee Konitz, but with a lighter touch.
Their lyrical and melodic improvising is often atmospheric, particularly during the four original tunes. The first two tracks, Cohen’s “Song Without Words” and Maestro’s “Nehama,” are mood pieces that develop slowly and could easily serve as movie soundtracks. In contrast, “Bye Bye Blackbird” receives a playful, joyful treatment, as the musicians push each other to greater heights.
Cohen and Maestro communicate deeply through an endlessly creative exploration of “Skylark” and a heated version of John Coltrane’s “26-2.” Cohen’s constant stream of ideas spurs Maestro’s rhythmic and spacious reactions. They often resemble dueling horn players, challenging each other, yet working closely to create intriguing music.
— Scott Yanow