Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In review--Music for Manhattan

Anat Cohen
Notes from the Village
Anzic Records

Not long ago, reed woman Anat Cohen was in Seattle. I missed her show. Then a few days ago I found her delightful recording Notes from the Village at my local library. And these notes from Manhattan’s East Village, I’m guessing, provide a global sound with everything from klezmer clarinet runs that bring pleasurable chills to my spine to Afro-Latin rhythms which kick into action halfway through the song Siboney. Cohen also pays respect to the late John Coltrane on her interpretation of After the Rain and to Fats Waller and Sam Cooke (A Change is Gonna Come).

I admit that I check recordings out from the library and then most of them are only played once and just sit on the shelf next to my player. But with Notes from the Village, I’ve listened to this recording while catching up on my work, upon waking in the morning (before I meditate), and at various times throughout the day. I’m impressed with Cohen’s talent as a jazz-world music player, her arrangements, and her original compositions. Since I grew up with all the most celebrated virtuosos, men, when I hear a women virtuoso, my heart screams, "YES!"

I see all those years where Cohen must have sat in her room practicing away and hopefully grabbing some inspiration from other women players and composers. And even if she didn’t she brings so much women power to her playing in the form of perfect timing, musical twists, and intuitive hunches with payoffs. On Until You’re In Love Again, which follows the rousing opener Washington Square Park, Cohen slows it down to a romantic, yet melancholic mood. Her clarinet just barely above a whisper laments over piano arpeggios and a kit drum played with brushes. I’m reminded of French Impressionist paintings which from far away give a sharper image, than up close because it’s how everything comes together to give us wholeness.

The pieces of this particular song come in the form of piano, guitar and clarinet solos with the song growing more passionate by the minute until Cohen’s clarinet hits full sail three quarters of the way through and then gradually descends back to a whisper. The interpretation of Ernesto Lecuona’s Siboney tells a different story—one where the American blues connects with Afro-Cuban son and Cohen’s clarinet takes on a Gershwin-like quality (think Rhapsody in Blue meets Tropicana). Also falling into a soulful vein is the cover of Sam Cook’s A Change is Gonna Come.  Her fiery sax playing on Lullaby for the Naive Ones certainly hits the spot.

There is no weak track on this album, no throwaway songs, and every song is played with sweat, gusto, and virtuosity by the entire band. Why has it taken me this long to find this CD? And why aren’t musicians shouting from the rooftops about this incredible musician Anat Cohen? Got me. But I hope that young women musicians listen to this recording and other Anat Cohen recordings for inspiration. While Coltrane, Davis, and the other jazz legends inspire us, they’ve passed on and we need some new music to keep the flame alive. Besides, I was listening to Coltrane's Giant Steps and My Favorite Things as well as, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue concurrent with Cohen's CD and I enjoyed this CD the most.

These sweet notes emanating from the East Village certainly satisfy my soul. Kind of makes me wish I was hanging out on a fire escape in Manhattan listening to great jazz and world musicians rehearsing their music. What can I say? I love this CD. And next time, Anat Cohen plays in Seattle, I’ll try my best to attend the concert. and

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