Saturday, February 11, 2012

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Anat Cohen's clarinet concepts

This week, let's get better acquainted with clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen, who will be in St. Louis to play at Jazz at the Bistro starting next Wednesday, February 15 and continuing through Saturday, February 18.

Cohen, who's in her early 30s, originally is from Tel Aviv, Israel, and grew up in a musical family. Her brothers, trumpet player Avishai Cohen (not to be confused with the bassist of the same name) and saxophonist Yuval Cohen, also are professional musicians, and the siblings have recorded three CDs together, billed as The 3 Cohens.

Classically trained in her native country, Cohen first came to the United States in 1996 to attend Berklee College of Music, where, her bio says, her teacher Phil Wilson encouraged her to play more clarinet. In 1998, she moved to NYC, where she's performed and recorded with groups including the Anzic Orchestra, Choro Ensemble, and Waverly Seven as well as under her own name. Cohen has been voted top clarinetist in both the Down Beat and Jazz Journalists Association polls, and has recorded four albums as a leader, the most recent being 2010's Clarinetwork - Live at the Village Vanguard, which was inspired in part by the centennial of the birth of Benny Goodman.

Although influenced by a variety of different styles, including Brazilian music and klezmer, Cohen has a real affinity for vintage swing that's nicely demonstrated in the first clip above, a 2008 duet with guitarist Howard Alden on the standard "After You've Gone."

Down below are two more examples of Cohen performing familiar material, with a video of her in 2010 at NYC's Jazz Standard playing "Cry Me A River" with Anzic Orchestra, and below that, a clip of "Body and Soul" played with pianist Benny Green, drummer Obed Calvier and bassist Barack Mori in 2010 at the Litchfield Jazz Festival in Connecticut.

Cohen isn't just a revivalist, though, and you can hear her approach to more contemporary material in the fourth clip. It's a version of her song "J Blues," recorded in 2010 with guitarists John Scofield and Gilad Hekselman, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Daniel Freedman.

Martin and Freedman are on board for the next video, too, along with pianist Jason Lindner. The song is Freedman's "Oh Brother," recorded at the 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival, and since it features Cohen playing soprano sax, there's a nice opportunity for some compare-and-contrast with her clarinet work.

The final video is a brief interview with Cohen done in 2011 at the Montreal Jazz Festival, during which she talks a bit about the specifics of the gig and then segues into more general topics, like what she looks for when hiring musicians.

For more about Anat Cohen, check out this interview on the website Rootsworld; the extensive past coverage of her work on NPR, including recordings of several concerts; and these two video interviews she did last year at the Newport Jazz Festival with Jazz Times' Lee Mergner.

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