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REVIEW Anat Cohen's "Clarinetwork"

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Monday August 23, 2010

From All About Jazz

Anat Cohen: Clarinetwork Live at the Village Vanguard
By Raul d’Gama Rose

Anat Cohen can make the clarinet sing—literally and figuratively. On Clarinetwork Live at the Village Vanguard her wonderful, flowing melodic lines swoop and soar like arias placating the most high. It is as if—in that spiritualised state of grace—Cohen, in her singular, burnished or blushing tone, is voicing the murmurings of the soul set free by the music. Cohen is an anomaly in contemporary music. She is not bound by metaphor and idiom, genre or species. Her home is where her heart is, be that the gentle, wistful shuffle of Brasilian choro or the wild abandon of swing or bebop. On Clarinetwork, she is entrenched in recasting the era that was glorified by Benny Goodman. In fact, as 2009 was a Benny Goodman centennial, this album was recorded as a deeply felt homage to one of a handful of legendary practitioners of the clarinet.

As a homage to Goodman, this album is by far one of the finest tributes made to that musician. However, it is impossible not to be continuously under the spell of Cohen herself. Her technique is impossibly refined and she can glide from altissimo through clarino to chalumeau seemingly effortlessly. How she is able to play microtonal intervals and the resultant quarter notes at breakneck speeds is a mystery best left unsolved, because on this album it is a joy to hear her duel with that other virtuoso, pianist Benny Green. Cohen’s technique is so supple that she plays some wild and wonderful trills at the conclusion of her phrases, as effortlessly as she might usher in a new phrase after a barely discernable vibrato is employed to close a preceding one. And she appears to have an endless stream of improvisational ideas issuing forth from her clarinet.

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