Trumpeting the Chilis, unrehearsed
Red hot Avishai Cohen

Trumpeting the Chilis, unrehearsed

Israeli musician plays two songs in front of 50,000 with two hours' notice, having never met the band before

Avishai Cohen (photo credit: Wikipedia commons CC-BY-SA/Octagon)
Avishai Cohen (photo credit: Wikipedia commons CC-BY-SA/Octagon)

Avishai Cohen, the Israeli jazz trumpeter who played two songs with the Red Hot Chili Peppers before an audience of 50,000 in Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon on Monday night, had never met the band before Monday evening, did not properly rehearse with them, and only heard at 7pm that he would be going onstage.

An exuberant Cohen told Army Radio on Tuesday morning that he is friendly with the four-man band’s unofficial fifth touring member, Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, and contacted him ahead of the concert because “I knew I’d be in Israel” and thought they might meet up for a bite to eat at a humus restaurant.

Refosco mentioned to Cohen that one of the Chili songs — “Did I Let You Know” — had a trumpet part, and wondered whether the band might want him to play it. He promised to let Cohen know in good time, but cautioned that lead singer Anthony Kiedis only finalizes the set-list on the night of each show.

At 7pm on Monday, two hours before the band went onstage, Cohen said, he got an SMS telling him his guest slot was happening. “It’s on,” he was told. By then, the concert’s warm-up bands were already onstage, and there was no opportunity to formally rehearse the song. “We jammed a bit” backstage, Cohen said.

During the jam, the band mentioned that there was a second number he might want to play on — “The Power of Equality,” one of the encores — and offered to teach it to him. Don’t worry, Cohen told them, “I know it inside out.” So he wound up coming back on stage for that track too.

Cohen said playing with the band was “really a dream come true,” since the Red Hots were musicians he “truly admired… and I don’t say that about a lot of bands.” He recalled playing one of their early albums as a kid over and over on his Walkman — “I remember what the cassette looked like.”

Cohen is certainly not the first Israeli to play with the band. Founding guitarist Hillel Slovak was born in Haifa, and was name-checked several times during Monday’s gig.

The Tel Aviv concert was the final stop on the Chili Peppers’ world tour. They headed straight from the show to the airport, Cohen said, “still sweating.”

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