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A Conversation with Anat Cohen

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Monday January 21, 2019

From Music & Literature

A Conversation With Anat Cohen
By: Daniel Medin

[…] I was wondering about the status of your other collaborations, like The Three Cohens, or the quartet. It seems a tremendous feat, given the separate careers and geographical distance between musicians, to keep all of them running.

The Three Cohens and my quartet’“my quartet especially’“those are ongoing projects. We’re going to be meeting, we’re going to be writing new music, making new albums, and doing more tours. The Three Cohens, for example, happens more in periods when we all find time and are available, and then we go on tour. Hopefully, we’ll have a good plan to have a new album released, in order to create some attention, and people will write about it and the shows, and then share the new music with others. Of course, we would like to play more. I love playing with my brothers’“I’d like to be with them onstage all the time. I also like to be not onstage with them, because I love them very much. We often don’t get to be on the same continent at the same time. They’re going back to India. Avishai loves it there, and he keeps touring. He’s very busy and he’s doing well. It doesn’t always work with the two of us, and definitely not the three of us. So we have to, you know, do like adults do and plan much further in advance. We say, like, let’s meet next year in March, because we have to clear space. So it takes planning.

My quartet is an ongoing project. I have the same bunch of people that I’ve been playing with, regulars and subs, so if I get a gig tomorrow for my quartet I know whom I’m going to call and most of them already know the music. And of course, there’s always preparing a new album and writing and learning new music. For that, we get together to rehearse. If somebody can’t do it, I might call somebody I’ve never played with before and say, ‘Okay, meet you in sound check, and these are the songs we’re gonna play.’ It’s like throwing a dinner party; you hope that the people are going to fit with the other people, because the music is inseparable from people’s personalities when you play jazz. It’s not like calling in a sub at a factory, where you just tell them, ‘Okay, you have to cut this, to this size, and you put it in this pack.’ Maybe, then, the people are interchangeable, but when things become creative and one part has to fit with another part, you have to be flexible, and that’s when the music becomes tricky. People can be really amazing musicians, but their personality might clash with other personalities. So when you find a winning collaboration, a winning team, a bunch of people that like each other‘¦ Because, remember, we’re playing maybe one hour, and the other twenty-three hours of the day we’re traveling and sitting together, so those twenty-three hours have to feel good. Not every band even cares about it. I care about it. And of course, that one hour on stage has to feel really good, because the musical experience is ultimately about feeling. It’s what you create with the other musicians, the emotional impact you make, the emotional availability of everybody that enables you to express who you are and what you are without any walls. And we’re talking about music, but this is psychology.

It’s life‘¦ It’s everything.

Yeah, you hang out with people that make you feel that you can be who you are. You can be stupid, you can be funny, you can be smart. And they just let you be who you are. It’s the same in music. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a wild guess, but‘¦ Every project that I have started, every person that I played more than once with, it’s because it felt good, and so those were the people I would be playing with again. And some things are more mutual. I did a duo with Fred Hersch, a great piano player, and from the first time we played together it felt good. And there’s always the interest in playing together, but sometimes we have to wait two years until we see each other, sometimes we play four times a year. And it’s going to always be an ongoing thing because it felt right the first time.

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