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Foreign Artists Embrace an All-American Art Form

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Sunday February 14, 2010

From San Diego Union-Tribune (by: George Varga)

The wide world of jazz is broader and more global than ever, 77 years after Duke Ellington first toured Europe and more than 90 years after Alabama-born James Reese Europe and his big band became the first American jazz group to perform on the European continent . . .

. . . Moreover, while foreign jazz artists used to strive to sound as American as possible, in recent decades it has become almost de rigueur to blend jazz with elements of the music of their respective homelands — or any other place that strikes their fancy . . .

. . . For many foreign-bred jazz artists, the music has long represented a uniquely American expression of freedom. This partly explains why jazz was outlawed in some European countries during World War II and in many Eastern European countries at the outset of the subsequent Cold War era.

Yet, even in places where jazz has never been banned — such as Israel — the music has proved liberating to those who play and listen to it. And many American jazz artists probably could not survive without the enthusiastic audiences who greet them in Europe, Japan and other parts of the world.

“When I was 13, I started listening to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald,” said the classically trained Cohen, 34, who was barely 15 when she started playing clarinet in a Dixieland band at the Jaffa Conservatory.

“I play a lot of different styles now with my quartet in New York and I have recorded several Israeli songs, but Brazilian music has become very dominant in my work over the past 10 years. If I like a person and their music, I want to learn what they listen to and what they were exposed to growing up. The world is so large, but with YouTube and so many people traveling, it seems to be getting smaller.”

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