Avishai Cohen (Hebrew: אבישי כהן) (born April 20, 1970 in Kibbutz Kabri, Israel) is an Israeli jazz bassist, composer, singer and arranger.
Avishai grew up in a musical family at Kibbutz Kabri, Northern Israel. He began playing the piano at 9 years old, but changed to the bass guitar at the age of 14, inspired by legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius. Later, after playing in an Army band for two years, he began studying upright bass with maestro Michael Klinghoffer. Two years later moved to New York City, and got in contact with other jazz players. At the beginning of his stay there he had to struggle, working in jobs like construction. According to him his first year there was the most difficult year of his life, having to play bass in the streets, subways and parks. He studied music at Mannes College The New School for Music, and after playing Latin jazz in a few bands in his student years, Cohen was approached by pianist Danilo Pérez to join his trio.
After a long period of performing in small clubs, Cohen got a phone call from the jazz pianist Chick Corea and was given a record contract. In 1996, he became a founding member of Corea's sextet Origin, and his first four albums as a leader were subsequently released under Corea's Stretch label. Cohen performed in Corea's bands until as late as 2003, when he left the Chick Corea New Trio; he currently performs with his own group, the Avishai Cohen Trio (with New Jersey's Mark Guiliana on drums and Israel's Shai Maestro on the piano). His later albums have been released by this formation with extended lineup including wind instruments.
Aside from Corea, Cohen has accompanied, recorded or performed with several noted jazz figures such as Bobby McFerrin, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Nnenna Freelon and Paquito D'Rivera. Other collaborators include Claudia Acuña (Wind from the South, 2000), Alicia Keys (studio recording) and the London and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras (concert performances). Cohen has been cited as "undoubtedly the most successful" of Israel's jazz exports by The Jerusalem Post, a "jazz visionary of global proportions" by Down Beat, one of the 100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century by Bass Player magazine, and "a great composer" and "a genius musician" by Chick Corea himself.
Cohen's signature sound is a blend of Middle-Eastern, eastern European and African-American musical idioms.The New York Times describes his 2006 album Continuo as conjoining "heavy Middle Eastern groove with a delicate, almost New Age lyricism".