REVIEW Anat Cohen @ Lafayette College (Easton, PA)

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Friday March 19, 2010

(from The Morning Call)

Published: March 11, 2010

The Anat Cohen Quartet got up on the Williams Center stage Wednesday night, eased into a syncopated 9/8 Latin beat, really gunned it for awhile with some straight ahead jazz, wailed like an Islamic call to prayer, and ended with a soothing samba.

And that was just the first song.

Somehow, IIsraeli -born clarinetist/saxophonist Cohen and her cohorts – Jason Lindner on piano, Omer Avitat on acoustic bass, and Daniel Freedman on drums – mix disparate international elements and rhythmic sensibilities that should be at odds with one another into an intoxicating, cohesive whole. The group’s more than hour-long set consisted of six colorful pieces, which included Brazilian choros, an Israeli ballad, a cool take on the classic “After You’re Gone,” and a pair of Cohen’s own compositions, of which the wild opening number, “La Casa Del Llano,” was one.

Although Cohen, a native of Israel living in New York, demonstrated undeniable aptitude on both instruments, she is clearly more comfortable on the clarinet, with a liquid tone and smoothly flowing lines. Yet at any moment she could unexpectedly unleash a melodic upper-register torrent that left one breathless. Far from throwing the other players for a loop, they comfortably picked up on her transitions and seamlessly built on them, following her own ever-shifting melody lines and tempo changes.

Cohen’s backing alternated between a jazz rhythm section, which gave Linder and Avitat several solo opportunities, and a piano trio, which gave them the opportunity to highlight some terrific ensemble work. “J Blues,” one of Cohen’s own compositions, opened with a deep and husky sax solo, then became a wonderful bluesy dialogue between Linder and Avitat, centered by Freedman’s steady beat.
Freedman really nailed the sound of Brazilian percussion in the spirited choro “Uma a Zero” with his bongo-style drumming. Cohen’s mesmerizing clarinet glissandos and virtuoso runs were equally breathtaking. The group performed a cool, contemporary take on the sumptuously lyrical Israeli song “Hofim” (Beaches), with some wild Middle Eastern riffs thrown in just to add excitement.

The whole set was done with broad smiles on all the musician’s faces. Cohen often danced in place, eyes closed as she blew, gently swaying from side to side whenever the muse took her. The deeper she dug in, the more her backing band grooved to the sound, obviously having as much fun as the audience.

To read the review online click here