Anat Cohen – “Claroscuro”


If you’re not careful, you might take Anat Cohen for granted.  Having released one solid album after the other under her own name, in collaboration with Choro Ensemble and 3 Cohens, and as a supporting musician in Duduku Da Fonseca’s quintet, Cohen’s commonplace excellence on reeds might lead a person to lose sight of how special her music is.

There is a buoyancy to her sound, even when the tone of the music lends to brooding and darker thoughts.  And this really speaks to me of a very classic element of Jazz… the music’s uplifting nature even when coming down with a strong case of the blues.  That via a combination of improvisation, composition, and group interplay, many facets of the emotional landscape can be presented with one voice, representing all while sanitizing none.  In a world of modern jazz that has become as disparate as the mind can express creativity, Anat Cohen plays Jazz, both in spirit and form.

Your album personnel: Anat Cohen (clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano & tenor saxes), Jason Lindner (piano), Joe Martin (bass), Daniel Freedman (drums), and guests: Paquito D’Rivera (clarinet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), and Gilmar Gomes (percussion).

On Claroscuro, Cohen hits upon a variety of music forms… New Orleans jazz on the gently swaying “La Vie en Rose,” Malian rhythms in “All Brothers,” NYC swing era jazz with Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare,” Brazilian choro in the haunting interlude of “Kick Off,” South African jazz with a cover of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Wedding,” a bit of the flavor of Middle-East jazz with “Anat’s Dance,” and several tracks that touch the meeting points between African and Brazilian musics so very reminiscent of Don Pullen’s masterful work.  One album track is Cohen’s own, two album tracks are from album personnel (one from Lindner and Freedman each), and the rest are taken from the songbooks of other musicians.

But the thing of it is, whether it’s her own compositions or those of another, Cohen delivers it with an easily identifiable personal voice that transcends music influences and roots.  When we talk about the language of music, it’s a reference to an agreed upon lexicon of instrumental and compositional approaches, and also to the songbook of generally accepted standards, but of equal importance is the ability of the artist to communicate the music in a voice that is all their own, that the creative thought is illustrated through the artist’s personal point of view.  The talent to do that is something that artists spend a lifetime developing, and it’s the essential element to forging a bond between the music and the listener.  Cohen is doing that now.  Her sound is very much her own, and that’s an accomplishment that shouldn’t be overlooked as one makes their way through Cohen’s wonderful discography.

Nothing could be more symbolic of what I’m talking about than the delightful Claroscuro.

Released on the Anzic Records label.

Jazz from NYC.

You can stream a few album tracks at the artist’s bandcamp page.  You can also purchase the album there.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3