Every now and then ECM drops an album that appears to be distinctly out of character. Big Vicious certainly fits into that category. It’s a surprisingly refreshing affair, although anyone seeking the subtle, sensitive Avishai Cohen of recent ECM outings will need to be very open-minded about this one. The character and clarity of the trumpeter’s playing hasn’t changed though, it’s just in a very different setting this time around.
Although Big Vicious is new to me, Cohen actually launched his exuberant home-grown band six years ago, after relocating from the US to his native Israel, rounding up players to shape the music from the ground up, and co-authoring much of its newest material together with them. The full band is made up of the band leader on trumpet, effects and synthesiser, Uzi Ramirez on guitar, Jonathan Albalak on guitar and bass, Aviv Cohen on drums, and Ziv Ravitz on drums and live sampling. Together the band forge what can possibly be best described as psychedelic-stoner-ambient-jazz-rock… if that paints a rather loose and intriguing picture.
The album is made up of co-written originals, Cohen originals, Tel-Aviv musician-producer Rejoicer originals, and covers; most notably Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”. There’s a fascinating cohesion to the music that suggests the band fit together particularly well as musicians, sharing a similar post-jazz vibe that allows the band to take improvisation into a new world of melodic pop-tinged electronica.
For me personally, the album is a little hit and miss, with some tracks working better than others, but the standard is nonetheless very high throughout the entire recording. A little samey after a while maybe, but there are some incredible stand-outs. The final track “Intent” is a stunner, sending shivers down my spine. “Teardrop” works very nicely with Cohen’s crystalline playing, “Hidden Chamber” benefits from an edgy groove that runs deep, I love the rockabilly cool of “King Kutner”, and the psychedelic folksiness of “The Things You Tell Me” is mesmerising in its own quietly meandering way.
Big Vicious is an intriguing mix of an album. It grows on you the more you listen. Try it. It might surprise you.