Award-winning clarinetist comes to The Blue Note

The next concert in the "We Always Swing" jazz series will take place March 12 at The Blue Note.

By Teresa Klassen | March 11, 2011

Tags: Concerts Music


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Master reed musician Anat Cohen is taking her music from Israel to Boston and New York and now to Columbia.

“I got to spend more time playing with different musicians,” Cohen said of the time since she’s been in Columbia. “Getting deeper into the performance, into the musical movement. The nice thing about jazz is it’s a moving work, so you can never see the same thing.”

Cohen specializes in the clarinet and tenor saxophone. She was voted Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association from 2007 through 2010, the first person to receive the honor two years in a row.

Cohen, originally from Israel, says there was not much jazz played while she was growing up, though there is much more now. A member of a musical family, she discovered jazz at a conservatory.

“When I played in the conservatory, we played the music of New Orleans,” Cohen said. “I loved the spirit of the music, loved the way it felt.”

Cohen started on the clarinet, and felt the saxophone was a natural way to continue as she began playing big band music. After leaving Tel Aviv, she studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Arriving in New York in 1999, Cohen gained musical experience by playing with groups like the Diva Jazz Orchestra and David Ostwald’s “Gully Low Jazz Band.”

Cohen is also known for her use of South American flavor in her jazz. In addition to both modern and traditional jazz, she plays Brazilian choro and Argentinian tango music.

“The clarinet is one of the leading voices in choro,” Cohen said. “Basically, that’s what really brought me back to playing clarinet, so I think my influences on the clarinet are more from South America.”

Cohen, who said she improvises roughly 95 percent of the time while performing, has expanded her work to include composition.

“It’s just a slower process…it’s calculated improvisation,” joked Cohen. “I started to compose just to find melodies that are in me. In my journey, in my past. It all comes out sometimes, and you don’t even realize until you hear it in your music.

It’s a combination of everything I’ve done, of who I am, of where I’ve been.”

Cohen said the way her compositions are might require a musician to have more knowledge of a certain style.

“All my compositions allow people to bring their personalities into them,” she said. “They have open sections where people can really bring their style to their music. I like that about jazz musicians. I like that music has no gender, no age, no color, no religion.”

Cohen said she doesn’t restrict herself to solely modern or traditional music, in both her performing and her composing.

“It’s a mix and match of everything,” Cohen said. “I’ll be trying to play both when I come to Columbia.”

The Anat Cohen Quartet will be performing March 12 at The Blue Note as part of the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series.

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