March 2010

Anat Cohen

A Moment To Experience Together

Since her years at the Berklee College of Music, clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen has kept a full calendar leading her own groups, working in various jazz, Latin and Brazilian bands, and co-owning a label, Anzic Records. For a spring concert date, the young Israeli-born veteran gathered her 17-piece big band in New York, rented a bus for the four-hour drive to Washington and drove straight to the Kennedy Center for sound check. With no time to rest, she met me in her hotel lobby for this listening session. Despite a steady stream of sidemen distractions, her concentration was focused and she was visibly moved by several selections, especially the Eddie Daniels-Roger Kellaway piece. Cohen felt bad we didn’t get to finish, so she insisted on meeting early the next morning to conclude before returning to New York. Cohen’s latest release as a leader is Notes From the Village (Anzic).

1. Ken Peplowski
“You Do Something to Me” (from Mr. Gentle & Mr. Cool, Concord). Peplowski, clarinet; Hank Jones, piano; Frank Tate, bass; Alan Dawson, drums. Recorded in 1990.

BEFORE: Woo! What a great technique. Swinging. I like the fire in the playing, the drive. It’s straight-ahead, someone who comes from the Benny Goodman tradition, but it’s more modern. The time is very on top, a percussive kind of playing. All the little trills, the swing ornaments are there. He or she is really interacting with the drummer. I like it, it’s a nice, round sound.

AFTER: Kenny is one of the reasons why I returned to playing clarinet. I got to hear him a lot playing live. He has a beautiful tone and great control over the instrument and he really swings. He’s a witty, funny man and you hear humor in his playing. I really like this.

2. Nilson Matta & Friends
“Day and Night” (from Walking With My Bass, Blue Toucan). Matta, bass; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Anne Drummond, flute; Cyro Baptista, percussion. Recorded in 2006.

BEFORE: It’s Brazilian. Nice partido-alto rhythm. “Night and Day”? Wow. Nice groove on the bass. The bass hypnotizes me; it’s moving, like an elastic pole moving from side to side. And I like those quarter notes that you can bite into. It’s a great arrangement—airy and spacious. I’m loving it. I don’t know if it’s Brazilian or American-Brazilian. Sounds like a combination, in between steady rhythm and broken. It’s very special. The two tenors who sound like that are Stan Getz and Harry Allen, but the rhythms were different than what Stan Getz would play.

AFTER: It’s Nilson. I should really know this CD. I’m sorry, Nilson. It’s beautiful. And Cyro always plays the traditional rhythms that groove, but he also adds other sounds, giving it a different, exotic flavor. Is it only Cyro, or is Duduka [Da Fonseca] on this? Is this a new album? It’s beautiful. I’ve known Nilson since I moved to New York 10 years ago. Anne Drummond sounds great on this.

3. Leo Gandelman
“Remexendo” (from Radamés e o Sax, Biscoito Fino). Gandelman, saxophones; Marcos Nimrichter, piano; Henrique Cazes, cavaquinho; Oscar Bolão, percussion; Omar Cavalheiro, bass. Recorded
in 2006.

BEFORE: [laughter] Wow, it’s somebody who’s interested in choro music. I love the maxixe rhythm. As soon as I heard the beginning I knew it would be about three minutes long. It’s in the traditional choro form of AABBACCA. The harmonization of the saxophones is from the big-band tradition. The way they were phrasing, it didn’t sound Brazilian, but then I listen to the cavaquinho and the drums and that’s definitely Brazilian. So I have no clue who it is, but when they go into the swing on the C part, I love the combination of the traditional saxophone section and the rhythm.

AFTER: Oh, it’s Leo. I love it. In a way it sounded overdubbed because it was perfectly articulated. Usually it’s very hard to get a section to have the same ghosting.

Ghosting?

He’s not attacking the notes all the way. It’s more duh than tuh. But it’s perfectly aligned. I like the recording quality, the way the saxes were panned. And it swings like crazy. Leo has done a lot of different things. I’ve known him for many years and I bump into him when I go to Brazil. I have lots of respect for him. He always sounds great. And Radamés [Gnattali] was a great choro composer. His harmonies were not completely traditional. They sound like jazz pieces. He wasn’t afraid to use II-V-Is and chromatic movement in the chords that were not in the tradition of choro. What’s up, Leo? [laughs] I’m sorry I said he was not Brazilian; he confused me in the articulation. I have to say, doing this today is fun, very relaxing for me.

4. Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway
“Adagio Swing” (from A Duet of One, IPO). Daniels, clarinet; Kellaway, piano. Recorded in 2005.

BEFORE: I know this piece. It’s so beautiful [sighs]. Fantastic playing. When I grow up, I want to play like that. It has a vibe of a live performance. It’s so in the moment with great recording quality, nice-sounding piano. I don’t know who’s playing, I just wish I was there at the concert. It’s like two people with fantastic technique on their instruments, but with finesse and fire in it, you know? Incredible. I need a moment to catch my breath. Obviously it’s two people with a great connection. It’s like listening to a modern classical piece, but with great groove and flexibility of improvisation that goes from playing changes to playing classical arpeggios. It doesn’t just stay in one style. They achieved the emotional impact together, going from tension to release. My jaw dropped. Everything was just perfect, and the level of physically playing and the execution combined with emotion and dynamics—I’m in awe.

AFTER: Yes, it’s [a composition by Tomaso Albinoni]. I always loved this piece. It’s such a haunting melody. You don’t even need any harmony to play it, you can just hum it. It’s such a moving melody even before you try to improvise or do anything behind it. I’ve got to hang out more with Eddie. This piece is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. It’s inspiring.

5. George Garzone
“Have You Met Miss Jones?” (from Four’s and Two’s, NYC). Garzone, Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone; Joey Calderazzo, piano; John Lockwood, bass; Bill Stewart, drums. Recorded in 1996.

BEFORE: [immediately] George Garzone with Joe Lovano. [laughter] Of course, Garzone was my teacher at Berklee. That’s his version of “Have You Met Miss Jones?,” which he lets his students study. On this record, Lovano plays the melody and George plays his triadic system. It’s the Garzone sound. I used to see him play every Monday with the Fringe at the Lizard Lounge. Then I would have a weekly half-hour lesson.

What did he teach you?

Besides talking about his very free harmonic approach, he gave me energy. He inspired me. Every week I would go to the lesson kind of lost, with low energy, and I’d walk out ready to deal with the world and ready to go at it. So George was a great, positive influence on me. He’s also a great player and a beautiful person. I love him.

The rest of this column appears in the March 2010 issue of JazzTimes

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