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Anat Cohen: Luminosa

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Anat Cohen has always loved Brazil’s music, and her seventh disc, Luminosa, goes deep down that rabbit hole. The Israeli multireedist’s quartet (keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Daniel Freedman) assays Brazilian standards and Brazilian-flavored Cohen originals, and infuses a Flying Lotus cover with the spirit of carnaval. It’s her best album yet.

Compounding the aesthetic, she brings in acoustic guitarist Romero Lubambo and percussionist Gilmar Gomes, and even does two songs with her own Brazilian group, Choro Aventuroso. A lesser musician could get lost in such an immersion; on Lubambo’s “Bachião,” the guitarist quickly proves himself one of the greatest alive. But Cohen distinguishes herself on the same tune with rhythmic precision and playfulness-she knows her Brazilian onions. She is all-around playful, practically jumping out of the speakers with a sweeping double-time solo on “Espinha de Bacalhau,” but also full of nuance, per her gorgeously sad “Ima” and Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque’s sentimental “Beatriz” (on which she doesn’t improvise). When she does solo, it’s some of her best work: On “Happy Song” she changes course every four bars, offering one concise, self-contained statement after another.

Cohen’s “In the Spirit of Baden” (a tribute to Baden Powell, naturally) is one of the album’s highlights, with an arrangement that recalls Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” and logically crafted solos from Cohen, Lubambo, Gomes and Lindner (on Wurlitzer electric). In terms of accomplishment, though, the transformation of Flying Lotus’ electronica track “Pretty Boy Strut” is hard to top. It’s a faithful rendition, down to the relentless handclap beat-emulated here by Gomes, on hand cymbals, and Freedman on hi-hat. It’s those percussive sounds, though, that evoke Brazil’s street musicians, and Cohen, Lindner and Martin intensify that feeling with a cheerful three-way counterpoint improvisation. That’s ingenuity writ large.

Originally Published