Born and raised in Israel, Avishai Cohen has often combined Middle Eastern and Israeli music with both electric and acoustic jazz. Cohen began studying the piano at age 11 and was 14 when he became interested in jazz. After playing piano in a high-school jazz band, Cohen switched to the electric bass and soon fell in love with the music of Jaco Pastorius.
Cohen was 16 when he enrolled in the Music & Arts High School in Jerusalem, and as a young adult, he played a few local gigs in Jerusalem before being drafted into the Israeli army. When Cohen's two years in the military ended, he was able to concentrate on jazz once again and decided to try the acoustic bass, which became his main instrument for much of the 1990s.
In 1992, Cohen moved to New York without having any real connections there, and ended up paying the rent doing moving and construction work. But after making some connections in the New York jazz scene, Cohen went on to play live gigs with such notables as Ravi Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Paquito D'Rivera, Roy Hargrove, and Leon Parker. One of his most fruitful associations was with Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, who employed him on his 1996 session, Panamonk.
After coming to the attention of Chick Corea and his longtime business partner, Ron Moss, Cohen was signed to their Stretch label and recorded his first album, Adama, in 1997. The following year, Corea hired Cohen to play in his newly created acoustic outfit, Origin. Colors was released in mid-2000, followed by a string of recordings for the RazDaz label.
In recent years, Cohen has moved back to Israel.
Avishai Cohen plays Spirocore double bass strings by Thomastik-Infeld Vienna