Saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen has quickly become one of the more interesting reed players in jazz. She’s put out three albums under her own name and last summer made her debut at the JVC Jazz Festival in Newport, where she spent most of her time on the clarinet and served up one of the more crowd-pleasing performances, despite being on the smallest stage there. Now the Tel Aviv native has two new projects to her credit: the Brazilian-based Choro Ensemble and the family affair 3 Cohens.
3 Cohens teams her up with her older and younger brothers, soprano saxophonist Yuval and trumpeter Avishai, along with the stellar rhythm section of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Omer Avital and drummer Eric Harland. The music is an extension of the brand Cohen has established on her own: stylish modern jazz that blends the American tradition with overseas influences. Here, the horn players’ intimate familiarity with one another pushes the symbiosis up a notch. The disc is called Braid for a reason: The Cohens weave lines around one another and wind up in places where they interlock perfectly. Take “Gigi et Amelie,” written by Avishai for two friends in France, which swirls and swells toward its conclusion, each sibling feeding off the creative soloing of the others. Or the one non-original, “It Could Happen to You,” played without the rhythm section: three horn players harmonizing, wrapping their passages around one another for two minutes and 46 seconds, creating something extra special. It would make their parents proud.
The Choro Ensemble is a different animal altogether. Sticking to clarinet, Anat co-leads a quintet of musicians—Pedro Ramos, Gustavo Dantas and Carlos Almeida on a variety of guitars, and Ze Mauricio on the pandeiro (a kind of tambourine)—through a rousing dozen tunes rooted in the Brazilian tradition of the 1930s. The music, called choro (pronounced SHO-ro), sounds like a mashup of Dixieland and samba; imagine Pete Fountain doing the music of Black Orpheus. It can be sweet and somber, as on the ballad “De Coracao a Coracao,” and it can turn into a tropical romp, as it does on “Descendo a Ladeira.” In every case, it takes you to another place and another time, and makes you want to stay there.