Label/Year: Anzic Records, 2017
Lineup – Anat Cohen: clarinet; Sheryl Bailey: guitar; Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet; Owen Broder: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Nick Finzer: trombone; Vitor Gonçalves: accordion; Rubin Kodheli: cello; James Shipp: vibraphone, percussion; Tal Mashiach: bass; Anthony Pinccioti: drums.
Anat Cohen is a multifaceted clarinetist-composer who has been recently immersed in the Brazilian jazz scene. Two of her recent outings, Rosa dos Ventos and Outra Coisa, recorded with Trio Brasileiro and guitarist Marcello Gonçalves, respectively, confirm exactly that.
For her newest record, Happy Song, she changes direction, gathering a dynamic tentet whose members come from different parts of the world, a fact that suits perfectly her wide eclectic vision and multi-cultural approach to music.
The repertoire here consists of eight pieces ranging in color and style and telling the story of the clarinet under the guidance of musical director and longtime collaborator Oded Lev-Ari.
Opening this polychromatic tour is the title track, which is nothing else than a funky exercise delivered with a contagious groove and blues-inflected speeches. Cohen’s clarinet takes the leading role, always well supported by the funky chunks of Sheryl Bailey’s guitar and the well-shaped movements superiorly orchestrated by the unified collective.
“Valsa para Alice” is expressively poetic in its engrossing melody, featuring passionate solos by the bandleader, the vibraphonist James Ship, and the Brazilian accordionist Vitor Gonçalves. The latter’s dramatic intonations deserve the spotlight on “Loro”, a piece by the virtuous Egberto Gismonti, in which Brazilian folklore with all its enriching rhythms gives it an exuberant sense of uplift.
Evoking the traditional swing era, Owen Murphy’s cheerful “Oh Baby” is arranged with humor and character. It combines Duke Ellington's orchestrations with Joe Pass’ swinging fervency and rejoices with improvisations by Bailey, Cohen, trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis, and baritonist Owen Broder, intercalated by in-synch phrases and call-response maneuvers. By the end, is Pinccioti who shines with efficient rhythmic bite.
One of the most idiosyncratic pieces, “Anat’s Doina”, is split into three Eastern-tinged movements: Mayse, Der Gasne Nigun, and Foile-Shtick. The amply dramatic appeal is heavily reinforced by Rubin Kodheli’s cello, but expect other stunts like shifting rhythmic accentuations within the ternary time signature, compulsive Polka-like dances delivered with celebratory postures, and a smooth crossover jazz with strong Latin vibes.
Cohen and her peers also tackle “Trills and Thrills”, an emotional pop/rock ballad composed by Dev-Ari and driven by Bailey’s six-string weeping laments, and Neba Solo’s “Kanedougou Foly”, a piece propelled by exotic African percussion rhythms and where the melodic suggestions of the clarinetist find echo in the counteractions of the horn section. Cohen arranged this one herself.
Happy Song mirrors the forthright and sumptuous style of Anat Cohen, whose adaptability to multiple genres and settings is impressive. It’s remarkable how easily one can engage in this multiethnic celebration of the creative spirit.
02 - Valsa Para Alice ► 03 - Oh Baby ► 06 – Trills and Thrills