Anat Cohen / Fred Hersch - Live in Healdsburg

Label: Anzic Records, 2018

Personnel - Anat Cohen: clarinet; Fred Hersch: piano.

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On their debut duo record, world-class instrumentalists Anat Cohen and Fred Hersch, clarinetist and pianist, respectively, included originals and carefully selected repertoire, whose variety enriches sonic possibilities as it supplements their creative vein. This intimate recording session was part of the 2016 Healdsburg Jazz Festival's lineup and comes in the sequence of very personal works recently put out by the two artists - Cohen gathered a skillful tentet to bring Happy Song (Anzic, 2017) to life, while Hersch orchestrated the enchanting Open Book (Palmetto, 2017) alone at a piano.

Produced by Cohen’s longtime musical partner Oded Lev-Ari, Live in Healdsburg starts with two compositions by Hersch. The opener, “A Lark”, which first appeared on the album Trio +2 (Palmetto, 2004), has the affectionate melody outlined by the clarinet, sliding over chord changes or ever-changing textures. Spinning with as much pleasure as free abandonment, Hersch, mostly conducting his accompaniment over the mid and high registers, achieves a further grandiosity whenever he hits the supporting bass notes. 

The duo's gentleness continues on the following piece. “Child’s Song” holds a rubato piano introduction that takes us to a 6/4 tempo put on hold by a staccato pianism. Brief pedals are combined with folk and classical movements in a middle passage that sometimes feels enigmatic without losing the sweetness of tone.

Cohen also shows to be a serious connoisseur and adept of the jazz tradition on her waltzing, classical-tinged “The Purple Piece”. Although she rarely explored rhythmic ideas that go beyond the expected on the weightless rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan”, her improvisation was fantastic on Hersch's bebop-inspired “Lee’s Dream”, a tune harmonically based on “You Stepped Out of a Dream” that served to honor saxophonist Lee Konitz. Still, the true emotions were left to “The Peacocks”, where the clarinet digs deep into the essence of our soul. Bill Evan’s interpretation of this tune might be insuperable, but this ego-less duet also captures and exposes the grandeur of the piece based on a flawless instrumental alliance.

After Fats Waller’s emblematic “Jitterbug Waltz”, here re-invented with a playful intro from piano, expressive musical smiles, and loose-limbed interplay with some rhythmic wallops, the recording comes to an end with the amicable serenity of Ellington’s classic “Mood Indigo”.

Inspiring each other and divinely ingratiated by their natural talent and musical sophistication, Cohen and Hersch make effortless music. This cute live recording, warmly temperate and melodic, makes for a pleasant listen.

         Grade  B

        Grade B

Favorite tunes: 
01 – A Lark ► 05 – Lee’s Dream ► 06 – The Peacocks