Clarinetist-Saxophonist Anat Cohen Plays with Light and Shade on Her New Album of Swinging Lyricism and Irresistible Variety, "Claroscuro"
(Published: August 14, 2012)
Cohen's sixth solo album - to be released on September 25, 2012 by Anzic Records - sees the jazz star at home in a world of music, ranging with her ace band from New York and New Orleans to Brazil and Africa
***Anat Cohen Celebrates "Claroscuro" with a week at The Village Vanguard, September 18-23***
"The lyric beauty of her tone, the easy fluidity of her technique and the extroverted
manner of her delivery make this music accessible to all." - The Chicago Tribune
Anat Cohen - celebrated the world over for her expressive virtuosity on clarinet and saxophone, not to mention the sheer joie de vivre in her charismatic stage presence - presents the latest record of her evolution with Claroscuro, her sixth album as a bandleader.To be released by Anzic Records on September 25, 2012, Claroscuro takes its title from the Spanish word describing the play of light and shade (chiaroscuro in Italian). The album ranges from deliciously buoyant dances to darkly lyrical ballads, with live-in-the-studio spontaneity a priority; moreover, Claroscuro showcases Cohen's fluency in a global set of styles, from the creolized chanson of New Orleans and the evergreen swing of an Artie Shaw tune to African grooves and Brazilian choro, samba and more. Cohen was joined in the studio by her ace working band - pianist Jason Lindner, double-bassist Joe Martin and drummer Daniel Freedman - as well as special guests: trombonist/vocalist Wycliffe Gordon, percussionist Gilmar Gomez and star clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera. In its irresistible variety, Claroscuro encapsulates the description Jazz Police offered of Cohen in flight: "She becomes a singer, a poet, a mad scientist, laughing - musically - with the delight of reaching that new place, that new feeling, with each chorus."
Claroscuro, recorded at Avatar Studios in Manhattan, comprises music from America, France, Brazil and South Africa played by kindred spirits from Israel, America, Brazil and Cuba - a melting pot stirred up magically in the moment, with many performances captured in a single take, often with impromptu arrangements. Cohen says: "I'm playing with some of my favorite musicians in the world, and we all speak a common language, no matter where we come from."
JazzTimes - September 2012, on newsstands August 14
Cohen - born and raised into a musical family in Tel Aviv, Israel, and a resident of New York City since 1999 - has been chosen the top clarinetist in both the readers and critics polls in DownBeat Magazine, the jazz bible, for several years running, as well as being named the magazine's Rising Star in 2010. She has been named Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association every year since 2007. Cohen will also be featured on the cover of JazzTimes Magazine (Sept 2012 issue). Furthermore, whether playing clarinet, soprano saxophone or tenor saxophone, she has delighted the most knowing of jazz sages: Nat Hentoff praised her "bursting sound and infectious beat," Dan Morgenstern her "gutsy, swinging" style, Ira Gitler her "liquid dexterity and authentic feeling," and Gary Giddinsher musicality "that bristles with invention."
As a leader, Cohen kicked off her Anzic discography with 2005's Place & Time, a quartet/quintet session named one of the year's best debuts by All About Jazz. Her two ambitious releases of 2007 - Noir (presenting Cohen with a jazz orchestra) and Poetica (a chamber-jazz feature for her clarinet) - led The New York Times to call her "one of the brightest, most original young instrumentalists in jazz." Notes from the Village, released in 2008, was a showcase for her multi-reed virtuosity mostly in a quartet setting. In 2009, Cohen became the first Israeli to headline at the Village Vanguard, the setting for perhaps the most hallowed live recordings in jazz history; the occasion yielded the 2010 releaseClarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard, which captured Cohen leading a hard-swinging band with all-stars Benny Green, Peter Washington and Lewis Nash.
Cohen has also recorded three acclaimed albums as part of the 3 Cohens Sextet with her brothers, saxophonist Yuval and trumpeter Avishai: 2003's One, 2007's Braid and 2011'sFamily (the last two released by Anzic Records). The 3 Cohens band has twice headlined for a week at the Village Vanguard, and the three siblings were featured on the cover of the January 2012 issue of DownBeat Magazine. Declared All About Jazz: "To the ranks of the Heaths of Philadelphia, the Joneses of Detroit and the Marsalises of New Orleans, fans can now add the 3 Cohens of Tel Aviv."
Claroscuro opens with the quartet and "Anat's Dance," composed by pianist Jason Lindner and titled for Cohen's signature stage movement. About that, she says: "Some might think I should tone down the dancing, but I go with the music. If I'm dancing, it means that I'm having fun, and if I'm having fun, I can't help it." The piece begins with the distinctively liquid phrasing and warm, woody tones of Cohen's clarinet, before Lindner and the rhythm section build a muscular, pendulous rhythm for her to sing and dance over. "The melody floats over the form, which is like a standard - except that it doesn't sound like a standard, the way the tune twists and how the vamps are very free," she says. "What I've always found inspirational about Jason is that he never defaults to the expected. He's always creative, always trying to find his own voice."
Recording "La Vie en Rose" was a spontaneous decision, with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon taking the vocal à la his hero, Louis Armstrong. "That was a case of `What's the key?' and off we went," Cohen recalls. "Wycliffe and I play what they played on Louis's record, but the rhythm section plays an almost hip-hop beat. Wycliffe sang it live with the band, with no overdubs, no edits. Wycliffe is such a positive presence, and one of the swinging-est musicians I know. This track makes me smile."
"All Brothers," a West African-style composition by drummer Daniel Freedman, begins with a kora-like intro on prepared-piano before the expansive groove kicks in and Cohen soars over the top on soprano saxophone in a Coltrane vein. "I love playing this piece of Daniel's live," she says. "The way the sound takes us back to the place where we'll all from, it doesn't seem like just music. I feel like I'm delivering a message when I play it. And the message is that we're all in this together."
No less than Jelly Roll Morton insisted that jazz had to have a "Latin tinge," and Cohen has been out to master various Latin sounds since her days at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, particularly the various styles from Brazil. She even taught herself to speak Portuguese. Her idiomatic flair in this music is such that Brazilian Press declared: "Anat is an Israeli who seems like a Brazilian when she plays samba." A sad-eyed ballad by Brazilian singer-songwriter Cartola, "As Rosas Nao Falam" translates as "The Roses Do Not Speak." Cohen says: "It's an unrequited love song - the singer says he could go out to the garden to talk to the roses, which give off the scent of his love, but they wouldn't speak back to him. I tried to convey the emotional essence of the story on my clarinet."
"Nightmare," a minor-key vamp by swing-era clarinet kingpin Artie Shaw, comes in a two-clarinet version pairing Cohen and Paquito D'Rivera. "The arrangement is condensed for quartet from the big-band original, and I play the first solo, which is my transcription of Artie Shaw's solo, and then Paquito improvises the second solo," she explains. "Paquito has been a great inspiration to me. He has this beautiful, round tone that I love, but it's more than that. He represents the complete musician, playing classical music to bebop, along with Cuban, Brazilian and tango - and all authoritatively. He's an example of how you don't have to separate different styles of music, like `this is classical and this is jazz.' You can juxtapose and blend styles to say something bigger."
Cohen fell in love with iconic singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento's music - including such numbers as the infectiously upbeat "Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser" - on her first trip to Brazil: "I adore the expressiveness of his voice, and his songs are like short stories. He's from the state of Minas Gerais, where they have a sound that's distinct from Rio or Bahia, less traditional - the harmonies go to different, unexpected places."
With jazz organist Lonnie Smith's "And the World Weeps," it was another instance of impromptu inspiration in the studio, Cohen remembers: "Jason suggested it, and the title spoke to me. There has always been a lot of suffering around, and with the way we're exposed to so much data today, you really feel it. I didn't know how we might do the tune. But Paquito and Wycliffe were in the studio that day, so it was just, `Paquito, you play the upper part; Wycliffe, you play the lower part; and I'll take the middle on tenor.' We did it in a single take, not perfect maybe but very organic."
Another tune by an iconic voice of Brazil, Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Ohla, Maria" ("Look, Maria") is a bittersweet love song that "really grabbed me," Cohen says. "It has this repetitive melody, but the lyrics change. So Jason and I share the form of the song, having a conversation and creating another kind of melody with piano and clarinet. It's another one-take recording, free and natural."
Cohen recorded the 2007 album Nosso Tempo for Anzic as a key member of the New York-based Choro Ensemble, named for its exploration of the choro, the irrepressible urban popular music style born in Brazil. For Claroscuro, she created "Kick Off" for her bass clarinet along with D'Rivera's clarinet, Freedman's drums and Gilmar Gomez's percussion as a tension-building prelude to the effervescent, soccer-themed "Um x Zero" by saxophonist-composer Alfredo da Rocha Viana, better known as Pixinguinha, one of Brazil's great exponents of choro. "This is a real chops-buster, very fast," Cohen says. "Paquito and I always have fun playing this one."
Closing Claroscuro is "The Wedding," composed by South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. "This is another tune that came from Jason," Cohen says. "It has a church vibe - a ballad with a backbeat. I love Abdullah Ibrahim's music, and the song almost seems to play itself. We performed this in Johannesburg in summer 2011, and it felt so good when people went crazy for it."
Whether the music of Claroscuro is light or dark, there is a radiant spirit to the performances. This is always Anat Cohen's goal. She says: "When you share music with people - your fellow musicians or an audience - it should always be a celebration. That doesn't mean the music won't sometimes be intense or heartbreaking. But making music with people for people, that is a gift. And there should always be joy in a gift."
ANAT COHEN: CLAROSCURO
1. "Anat's Dance" (Jason Lindner)
2. "La Vie en Rose" (David Mack, Louiguy, Edith Piaf)
3. "All Brothers" (Daniel Freedman)
4. "As Rosas Nao Falam" (Cartola)
5. "Nightmare" (Artie Shaw)
6. "Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser" (Lô Borges, Márcio Borges)
7. "And the World Weeps" (Dr. Lonnie Smith)
8. "Olha Maria" (Chico Buarque / Antonio Carlos Jobim & Vinícius de Moraes)
9. "Kick Off" (Anat Cohen)
10. "Um x Zero" (Alfredo da Rocha Viana, a/k/a Pixinguinha, with Benedito Lacerda)
11. "The Wedding" (Abdullah Ibrahim)
Anat Cohen: clarinet & bass clarinet, soprano & tenor saxophone
Jason Lindner: piano; Joe Martin: bass; Daniel Freedman: drums
Paquito D'Rivera: clarinet (5, 7, 9 & 10); Wycliffe Gordon: trombone & vocal (2 & 7)
Gilmar Gomez: percussion (6, 9 & 10)
Anat Cohen: Claroscuro - EPK - http://vimeo.com/47308109
Press photos, sound samples and more available at:
Jason Paul Harman Byrne at Red Cat Publicity
347 578 7601; firstname.lastname@example.org
More Information: http://www.anzicrecords.com
Red Cat Publicity