The Shmooze

Anat Cohen: Hot at 54 Below

By Masha Leon

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Israel-born clarinetist assoluta Anat Cohen accompanied by the Choro Aventuroso ensemble — Victor Goncalves accordion, Cesar Garabini on a 7-string guitar and Serginho on the Pandeiro, a large tambourine producing sounds I’d never heard — dazzled the August 22 crowd at Broadway’s 54 Below Club.

Cohen — voted “clarinetist of the year” seven years in a row by the Jazz Journalists Association — launched the stunning evening with the directive “Let’s hit it!” as she and the ensemble created musical imagery of such liquidity and intensity from languorous to fiery.

Karen Leon
Anat Cohen and Serginho

One could image the evening’s selections as ranging from rivulets of cool molten lead escalating to avalanches of cascading red hot lava. “This [music] represents the original blues of Brazil,” said Cohen who described “Choro” — the genre — as “the father of samba and grandfather of bossa nova.

Wearing a v-necked white-black striped hip length tunic over black pants and undulating with the rhythms of her selections, Cohen — whose accolades include “2012’’s Multi-Reed’ Player of the Year” — offered a brief and whimsical preface and overview to each of her solo and ensemble’s’ selections. But it was the mental imagery of the music — such as couples locked in embrace on a dark dance floor as in a passionate tango—that lifted the performance to an experiential imprinting.

Born in Tel-Aviv, Cohen grew up in a musical family. She attended the Tel Aviv School for the Arts, the Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts and the Jaffa Music Conservatory. During her (1993-95) military service, she played tenor saxophone in the Israeli Air Force Band.

In 2009 Cohen became the first Israeli to headline at the Village Vanguard, which produced her 2010 release “Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard” whose review “All About Jazz,” singled out her performance of “St. James Infirmary,” noting, “Cohen reaches a state of musical ecstasy…as her clarinet moans, sighs, soars and wails with passion and emotion.” That is exactly what Cohen and her ensemble offered the amazed 54 Below audience that night.

During our brief post-performance chat, Cohen told me that her grandmother was from Warsaw.

There is still time — to August 25— to savor Cohen and Choro at 54 Below and leave on a cloud.


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