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Anat Cohen – June 15, 2014

This gig was at the Village Vanguard, a club I’d never been to before. Right from the get-go, I have to say it was (along with the LCJO) the musical highlight of my trip to New York. I arrived early, as I always do, and was seated at the bar, which is small and at the back of the room. But the venue is small enough that you’re never that far from the stage.

Before the show started, Cohen was chatting with some friends who were also at the bar. I heard her speak Hebrew and English both. I resisted the temptation to approach her to tell her how much I enjoyed her playing at the James Moody tribute a year or so ago, when I saw her duet with Paquito d’Rivera.

Her first number she did on clarinet, an up-tempo ostinato thing. She combined bent notes with high-speed runs. On the rests she would smile and sway back and forth. I think you (at least I) enjoy live music more when it is obvious that the musicians are enjoying themselves, and even more if the musicians seem like warm, genuine, nice people. Cohen seems to me to be this type of musician.

I have in my library some of her tunes, as well as tunes by her and her brothers (filed under “3 Cohens"), but I must confess that the music she played this evening affected me more than any recordings I have of her. The trio setting (Cohen alternating between clarinet and tenor sax, bass, and drums), was more than adequate; I didn’t feel the absence of a comping instrument like the piano or the guitar.

When she puts the clarinet down and picks up the tenor it’s an odd sight, because she’s not a tall woman and the horn looks big in her hands. But despite her stature, her tone is huge, in the Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins tradition. She can play it sweet and she can growl.

I think most of the tunes she played were originals, her own or by other members of the trio. She can sound old-fashioned or traditional and she can sound avant garde. How about this? Pharoh Sanders + Sonny Rollins + Ornette Coleman ÷ 3 = Anat Cohen.

At one point in the evening between tunes we heard the voice of an old woman coming from the kitchen (maybe not the kitchen, since they don’t serve food, but the room behind the bar). “I want a vodka, I said!” Everyone within earshot cracked up.

Cohen started the set with an original called “Happy Song” (she said she called it this because it is in a major key. Playing in a minor key is what comes natural to her). She played one called “Sure I Can” (originally, “Rhythm Changes in F”). The new title is because after a gig she is hungry and goes out for a few slices of pizza. Somebody told her, “you can’t go to Joe’s Pizza every night!” to which she responded, “sure I can!” She quipped at one point, “I hope you’re not missing any soccer games.”

As for standards, “For All We Know,” “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance” and “Mood Indigo.” All beautiful.

I remember her playing, all bluesy, the bell of her clarinet pointed out into the audience, her eyes closed.

Anat Cohen – clarinet and tenor sax
Martin Wind – bass
Kendrick Scott – drums

Matt Wilson was supposed to be sitting at the drums that night. Scott did a great job replacing him. A subtle drummer with a great dynamic range, from p to ff. Matt Wilson’s wife was to die of leukemia the next day, so our thoughts are with him and his family.

One of my favorite jazz shows of all time.


GIANT_2-Anat-Cohen

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