At first, it took a while to realize that it would be a riveting evening at the 92Y Tribeca. Jason Lindner’s MoPho beats vaguely hung in the air, spiraling into a nondescript aural cloud. But several minutes later, that cloud jolted into lightning, crackling with jazz-electronica fusion. The force behind the transformation was Now vs. Now, Lindner’s powerhouse trio with bassist Panagiotis Andreou and drummer Mark Guiliana.
The air in the spacious venue tightened when the musicians swelled into action on “Future Favela”. Andreou’s thick electric chords fueled Lindner’s blaring magnetism, reaching hypnotic heights when the former player traded his strings for scat on “Alternate Current”. His pungent vocals recalled the konnakol style, infusing Lindner’s whirling synths with an earthy percussive richness. “Working Threads” featured the band at its chest-thumping best. Guiliana led the air-searing impetus that pulsated through every floor tile, chair, and drinking glass in the space.
The crackling electricity simmered down to an acoustic flame in “Friendship and Love”, as Lindner turned to his piano for a melancholy solo opener. Andreou dragged his bass chords as a vocalist would his voice, until he actually slipped into a resonant croon. His Greek lyrics were at once heavy and ethereal, laced in both hope and sorrow. And from the tide emerged a brief yet poignant moment: whittling his words down to a soft whistle, Andreou weaved into heartfelt harmony with Lindner’s piano.
Now vs. Now’s acoustic turn was a perfect segue into Third World Love, featuring Avishai Cohen, Yonatan Avishai, Omer Avital, and Daniel Freedman in a spectrum of irresistible melodies. The quartet assembled on stage and hearkened back to the Barcelona from whence they came (through none of its members hail from Spain, Third World Love first met in the city in 2002). Avital and his upright bass morphed into one radiant force, bouncing together like a waterfall of charismatic energy. While Avishai’s piano set vibrant sail, Freedman punctuated the vibe with rippling cymbal cracks and rim taps. The thread that united these voices emerged from one unmistakable source: Cohen’s enchanting trumpet.
Exuding an ease uncannily reminiscent of Miles Davis, Cohen spearheaded “Nature’s Dance” with a rejuvenating groove that shone long after the final note was through. Cohen’s horn came to life only intermittently – but when it did, the ears perked to full attention, savoring each squeal, slur, and alluring blare of brass. When Cohen raised his trumpet, Avishai’s momentum grew even tangier, Freedman’s drum rolls even bolder, and Avital’s rhythm even richer. The air lifted to the beat of Cohen’s evocative flavor, hinting at New Orleans swing, Gillespie-era bop, and Israeli folk all at once. The distinction should be made sparingly, but in the case of this trumpeter, it is too profound to keep silent: Avishai Cohen is a legend in the making – the strident musical voice that captivates in its silences as well as its flares.