Anat Cohen: Music as a Celebration

Anat Cohen

Clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen has won hearts and minds the world over with her expressive virtuosity and delightful stage presence. Voted Clarinetist of the Year six years in a row by the Jazz Journalists Association, as well as 2012’s Multi-Reeds Player of the Year, Anat will be coming to Centrum two different times in 2013. She’ll be part of our popular Choro workshop April 3-7, 2013, and she’ll return July 21-28, 2013 to be on faculty at Jazz Port Townsend.

Anat has toured the world with her quartet, headlining at the NewportUmbriaSF Jazz and North Sea jazz festivals as well as at such hallowed clubs as New York’s Village Vanguard. In 2012, Anzic Records released her sixth album as a bandleader, Claroscuro. The album ranges from buoyant dances to darkly lyrical ballads, drawing inspiration from New Orleans and New York, Africa and Brazil (see video below).

“When I share music with people – other musicians or an audience – it always feels like a celebration to me.”

In many ways, Anat is the perfect choice to bridge the choro and jazz worlds at Centrum. After graduating from the Berklee School of Music,  she played tenor saxophone in myriad contexts and bands, including Afro-Cuban, Argentinean, klezmer, contemporary Brazilian music and classic Brazilian choro. Moving to New York in 1999 she spent a decade touring with Sherrie Maricle’s all-woman big band, The Diva Jazz Orchestra; she also worked in such Brazilian groups as the Choro Ensemble and Duduka Da Fonseca’s Samba Jazz Quintet, along with performing the music of Louis Armstrong with David Ostwald’s “Gully Low Jazz Band.”

She says that choro has some similarities to early jazz — constant improvisation, active countermelodies — but that learning it has posed unique challenges.

In an WYNC Soundcheck interview, she talked about the similarities between jazz and choro.

“I think as a jazz musician, this music [choro] has a lot of challenges to understand the style, like any style inside the American art form called jazz,” Cohen says. “If you want to learn how to play New Orleans music, or swing, or bebop, you have to dedicate yourself to learn a style. And the language of choro is the same thing — it’s a language, with a specific accent, and I was very intrigued by it, and wanted to learn it.”