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New Orleans Jazz Fest Focus: Anat Cohen

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Tuesday April 26, 2011

From OffBeat

Jazz Fest Focus: Anat Cohen
By: Zachary Young

“My first exposure to jazz was through the music of New Orleans,” says saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen. Growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel, one of her earliest musical experiences was as a member of the Jaffa Conservatory’s Dixieland band. Recordings of Sidney Bechet stoked that interest. “There was so much fire and so much passion in his playing,” she says.

Today, that influence can seem far away. Cohen is one of the most acclaimed players in New York’s modern jazz scene; her most recent record, Clarinetwork, is a live session from the Village Vanguard, celebrating the 2009 centennial of Benny Goodman’s birth. The mellow, acoustic quartet setting recalls some of Goodman’s classic sessions, but with a rhythmic aggressiveness born of ’60s jazz. Cohen boasts a technical facility on the instrument that evokes Goodman—as does her tendency to garnish her solos with an occasional reedy growl. “The clarinet has become more dominant in my life,” she says. “I surrender gently.”

As a young Israeli, Cohen discharged her mandatory military service as a member of the Air Force band. In the years when Cohen was training and establishing herself, jazz was an unusual direction for an Israeli musician. “It was still out of the norm,” she says. In 1996 Cohen began study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, later moving to New York City.

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