The Cohen siblings always come up with an intriguing new concept for each of their records: For Tightrope the concept is to pare the band down to just the “3 Cohens” on the vast majority of the 18 songs. That’s somewhat tricky business, given the absence of a traditional rhythm section — Avishai is on trumpet, Yuval plays soprano sax, and Anat moves from tenor to clarinet to bass clarinet. But the siblings immediately turn the “without a net” setting implied by the title into a showcase for their razor-sharp timing, borne of their literal familiarity along with their deep scholarship and love of the music. They nail the mixture of bop and swing in their cover of Art Farmer’s “Blueport,” from the classic 1959 Gerry Mulligan album What Is There To Say?, and dip into the same disc later on for Mulligan’s “Festive Minor.” They also deliver inspired trio workouts on “Indiana” (made famous by Louis Armstrong) and Tadd Dameron’s seminal bop classic, “Hot House.”
Tightrope is also admirably varied. There are three Cohen originals, a traditional Israeli lullaby, and five “Conversations” that are simply snippets of improvisation, with the longest lasting 2:09. There are also three guest stars spread across six different tracks. Bassist Christian McBride joins in on a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me,” Johnathan Blake contributes lively drums to Avishai’s original, “Black,” and pianist Fred Hersch guests on three cuts, most notably “Estate,” an Italian classical composition originally written “for trumpet and jazz ensemble.”
What always comes through on both the Cohens’ group and individual albums is a steadfast love of jazz — its storied history, the cutting-edge creativity of its present, and the privilege of being able to contribute to its future. They bop, they swing and, above all, they enjoy.