Having come to prominence playing with legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea in the '90s, Israeli-born bassist Avishai Cohen has developed into a virtuoso performer and bandleader with a stylistically expansive sound.
His aptly titled 2017 studio album, 1970, showcases this broad approach with a set of original compositions and traditional songs that harken back to the socially minded folk, pop and world fusion of his birth year.
In many ways, 1970 is the amalgamation of several key influences that have shaped Cohen's creative life, including the Jewish folk music, pop, and Sephardic Ladino songs his mother played for him while he was growing up.
Along with his fluid bass technique, much of the album is built around Cohen's voice.
Blessed with a warm, naturally resonant baritone, Cohen isn't so much a virtuoso singer as a soulful presence at the microphone.
Helping to achieve his stylistically integrative sound are many of the musicians who make up his expansive Eastern Unit Project, including vocalist Karen Malka, keyboardist Jonatan Daskal, drummer Tal Kohavi, guitarist Sherrod Barnes, percussionist Itamar Doari, and others.
Together, they play a groove-oriented, jam-friendly style that's equal parts '70s soul-funk group, and traditional world music ensemble.
There's a passionate, earthy spirituality to many of the songs on 1970 like the opening "Song of Hope," in which Cohen pleads for global unity against a moody R&B beat.
He then gets more personal with the funky, wah-wah guitar-inflected "My Lady," singing "Have I told you that I love you, babe/Well, if I haven't then I misbehaved/You're the woman that has gotten me saved/From my loneliness..." Elsewhere, he dives into the roiling traditional number "Se'I Yona," his voice framed in emotive harmony with Malka and Elyasaf Bishari's buoyant instrumentation.
Burleigh's "Motherless Child," and his kinetically amorous, salsa-infused arrangement of Ismael Quintana's "Vamonos Pa'l Monte" are also delightfully compelling.
While it's not a jazz album in any strict sense, there is a freedom and openness to the music on 1970 that feels very much in keeping with Cohen's past efforts.
It's that openness, and the balance that comes from taking inspiration from the past while looking toward a brighter future that helps make 1970 such an uplifting experience.