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Anat Cohen and Her Jazz Clarinet – NYTimes.com

Anat Cohen and Her Jazz Clarinet

Anat Cohen and Her Jazz Clarinet

In search of some live Brazilian music a few months ago, I found my way to Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, in the Time Warner Center, where the Brazilian percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca was leading a quintet. I can’t say I knew much about Mr. Da Fonseca before I heard his band that night, and among the things I didn’t know was that his quintet’s regular reed player was a 38-year-old Israeli woman named Anat Cohen, who has lived in New York since 1999.

On the first few tunes of the set — mostly the kind of fast-paced, Brazilian-tinged jazz I’ve always loved — Ms. Cohen played the reed instrument most closely associated with postwar jazz: the tenor saxophone. It was immediately apparent that she was a terrific musician, fluid, full-throated, with a knack for creating beautifully crafted, even eloquent solos. Around the fifth song, however, the quintet began playing “Chorinho pra Ele,” a simple, infectious samba by Hermeto Pascoal, the great Brazilian multi-instrumentalist. And that’s when Ms. Cohen did something you rarely see a jazz reed player do these days. She took out her clarinet.

As good as her saxophone playing was, Ms. Cohen on the clarinet was a revelation. Using the clarinet’s upper register, she could evoke infectious joy. In the lower register, her playing could conjure a deep, soulful melancholy. On up-tempo numbers, her improvisations weren’t just bebop fast; they had a clarity and deep intelligence that is really quite rare. She made it look effortless, even as she was playing the most technically difficult of all the reed instruments. She only played a handful of songs on the clarinet that night, but every time she did, she took my breath away.

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