When the Avishai Cohen Sextet took the stage Tuesday night in a slightly chilly Blues Alley, pianist Jason Linder sat down, rubbed his hands and quietly said, "It's cold in here." The chill took a while to work its way out of his hands; Linder's solo during the swinging opener, "El Capitan & the Ship at Sea," began meticulously, each note seemingly pondered before it was chosen.
But as the band heated up, so did Linder, and soon he was racing through spontaneous single-note runs and finished his solo with passionate bursts of strange chords. Twelve minutes later, the room's temperature was just fine.
"The Gift" began with bassist Cohen rhythmically interpreting the song's Middle Eastern-style melody with all manner of string plucks, muted strums and glissandi. Guitarist Amos Hoffman played oud on "The Gift"; unfortunately the rest of the band often drowned out that instrument's distinctive buzz.
"Ora" was an up-tempo workout, with saxophonist Jimmy Greene and trombonist Steve Davis sweating out long, impassioned solos. Special guest singer Claudia Acuna joined Cohen for a beautiful bowed-bass and voice duet, "Linda de Mi Corazon."
The whole band brought on the funk on "Bass and Bone Fantasy" and "Madrid," with its moody tom-tom and oud intro by drummer Jeff Ballard and Hoffman, grooved with a hot Latin tinge.