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Artist Spotlight: Anat Cohen

The Israeli-born, New York City-based artist is no stranger to "Clarinetist of the Year" awards

Anat Cohen
Anat Cohen

Clarinetist, saxophonist, and bandleader Anat Cohen is a multiple Grammy-nominated artist based in New York City who has been voted Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association every year from 2008 to 2019.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Cohen is the older sister of trumpeter Avishai, and the younger sister of saxophonist Yuval. Anat Cohen began on clarinet when she was 12 years old, playing in her Jaffa conservatory’s Dixieland band. When she was 16, she joined the school’s big band and learned to play tenor. That year Cohen began majoring in jazz at the Thelma Yelin High School of the Arts in Giv’atayim, Israel.

The Anat Cohen Tentet covers “Putty Boy Strut” by Flying Lotus live at the Jazz Standard.

After graduating, she served in the military during 1993-95, playing tenor in the Israeli Air Force Band. In 1996 she moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music.

While at Berklee Cohen discovered world music and performed with jazz, klezmer, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian popular music groups. Those experiences served her well for when she arrived in New York in 1999; she started out working with the Brazilian pop band Brazooca, the Choro Ensemble and New York Samba Jazz. She has played lead tenor with Sherrie Marciel’s Diva Jazz Orchestra, has performed 1920s jazz with David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band since 2004 and teamed up with her brothers in the Three Cohens.

Anat Cohen and Marcello Gonçalves perform Coisa No. 10 (Moacir Santos)

Already considered one of the top clarinetists in jazz, Cohen can also be heard on tenor, soprano and alto. She leads her own quartet, which also includes guitarist Gilad Hekselman, bassist Eduardo Perez and drummer Fereric Nemeth.

Cohen’s debut album, Place & Time, featuring Jason Lindner, Ben Street, Jeff Ballard, and Avishai Cohen, was released in 2005 on Anzic Records. Her latest record, Triple Helix, which features her New York tentet, was released in 2019.

The album’s centerpiece is a three-movement concerto composed for Cohen and the tentet by her longtime collaborator Oded Lev-Ari, the Tentet’s musical director. Commissioned by New York’s Carnegie Hall and Chicago’s Symphony Center for live world premieres, Triple Helix has been acclaimed as “a work of considerable expressive reach” by the Chicago Tribune.

Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro perform Choro Pesado by Dudu Maia & Douglas Lora.

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More from Around the Web

At the Hamilton, clarinetist Anat Cohen and her quartet explode with intensityWashington Post

 Clarinet star Anat Cohen brings new concerto to ChicagoChicago Tribune

Avishai Cohen’s Triveni With Anat Cohen On JazzSetNPR