Since graduating from the Berklee College of Music, Israeli-born multi-reedist Anat Cohen has impressed listeners throughout the world in numerous and varied contexts, including New York’s Diva Jazz Orchestra, its offshoot the Five Play Quintet and the Brazilian-music group Choro Ensemble. On her first outing as a leader, Place & Time, she’s assisted by a seasoned rhythm section of bassist Ben Street, pianist Jason Lindner and drummer Jeff Ballard, the latter two having recorded with her previously as fellow sidemen. Her trumpeter brother Avishai Cohen (not to be confused with the bassist of the same name) appears on four tracks.
Just as Cohen’s resume reflects her experience with wide-ranging musical approaches, so does her music. Two-thirds of the CD’s nine pieces are fresh original compositions that meld disparate elements into a satisfying musical stew. For example, “Veinte Anos,” a song of Cuban origin, is given an Argentine tango treatment and features Cohen’s sometimes klezmerlike clarinet playing. And “The 7th of March” exhibits not only Middle Eastern and Latin aspects but a bit of down-home backbeat as well.
On tenor or soprano saxophone or clarinet, Cohen exhibits expressive tone, precise control and finesse, especially in the tender spots but also when she’s stomping and wailing. And her virtuoso technique enables her to swing at breakneck tempos, as on Gerry Mulligan’s hard-charging “As Catch Can,” where Avishai Cohen’s well-constructed solo demonstrates his own acute sense of musical drama.