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World Music CD Reviews North American

Anat Cohen

By Jeff Tamarkin
Published November 11, 2008

Notes From The Village

Multi-reedist Anat Cohen has been increasingly prolific since she arrived on the New York jazz scene from Israel nearly a decade ago, racking up plaudits and awards and amassing a discography of no small bulk. In 2007 alone she released two night-and-day titles as a leader (Poetica and Noir) and she’s also worked recently with her two brothers as a member of 3 Cohens, contributed to a Bobby Darin tribute project and guested on a number of other albums. But Notes From The Village marks the realization of all the promise those previous recordings suggested—Anat Cohen is no longer a promising young lioness she’s in the big leagues now, one of the most exciting and creative artists on the contemporary jazz scene. While the eight tracks on Notes From The Village are filtered through the eyes and ears of an immigrant, this is ultimately a quintessential New York City record—New York being, after all, a city of immigrants. Cohen has absorbed the pan-cultural melting pot of worldly influences that make the city what it is, that multi-colorful, bustling Babel that is Manhattan, and reshaped it via her crisp arrangements and spirited performances. The music bursts with exhilaration and possibilities but, mostly, it exudes delight. Amidst the virtuosity of Cohen and her perennially pumped-up collaborators—keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Omer Avital, drummer Daniel Freedman and, on three tracks, guitarist Gilad Hekselman—Cohen digs from a limitless well of ideas that never ceases to astound or impress. She gives renewed voice and prestige to the clarinet, a nearly forgotten instrument in contemporary jazz (and one with such a rich history), but just as easily masters the tenor and alto saxophone. There’s a light and often delicate touch to her flights, but also an undeniable seriousness of purpose and fierce drive. Nowhere is this juxtaposition more pronounced than the back-to-back renderings of Sam Cooke’s civil rights-era anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” (which Cohen dedicated to Obama at a recent NYC gig), given a soulful, reverential treatment, and Fats Waller’s skittering “Jitterbug Waltz,” a playful romp that both evokes the period of its inception and places it squarely into today’s world. Her own compositions, among them the opening “Washington Square Park” and “J Blues,” hold their own among the interpretations, which include tracks from Coltrane (“After The Rain”) and Cuban composer Ernesto Lecouna (“Siboney,” arranged by Lindner). Cohen’s “Lullaby for the Naïve Ones,” the only track on which she works her tenor, comes on as just the sweetest darn thing you’ve ever heard, Lindner’s tinkling, repetitive piano lines soothing and seductive. It doesn’t stay there long though, heading swiftly to a more Coltrane-esque astral plane and finally building to a crescendo that is anything but lullaby-light. Cohen tends not to stay in one place very long musically, but when she touched down at the junction that resulted in Notes From The Village, she created her most powerful statement to date.