"In many ways she’s an ideal: well prepared, passionately literate in music far outside her local circle, an improviser with gusto. She understands how dance rhythms leaven and quicken jazz. And she has a full, even, unsqueaking tone, especially on the clarinet, an instrument that could use another distinctive voice in jazz."
—Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
“Bristles with invention.”
—Gary Giddins, The Village Voice
The Jazz Journalists Association named Anat Cohen its "Up and Coming Musician of the Year" for 2007, but since then she has upped and arrived: more awards from DownBeat and the JJA; headlining gigs at the Village Vanguard; features on NPR; a star turn at Monterey. Live performances by her new quartet have reviewers gushing everywhere from Jazz Times to the New York Times. "Sheer musicality is their guiding force," says Jazz Times; "they just see no reason not to have a hell of a grand time playing."
An accomplished bandleader and prolific composer, conversant in modern and traditional jazz, classical music, Brazilian choro, Argentine tango, and a wide range of Afro-Cuban styles, Anat Cohen has established herself as one of the primary voices of her generation on both the tenor saxophone and clarinet.
Born in Tel Aviv, Anat grew up with musical siblings; her older brother Yuval is himself a saxophonist of note, and her younger brother, Avishai, is one of New York’s busiest trumpeters. She began clarinet studies at age 12, and at 16 joined the Jaffa Conservatory's big band, learning tenor saxophone. The same year, she entered the prestigious “Thelma Yelin” High School for the Arts, where she majored in jazz. After graduation, while completing her mandatory Israeli military service, she played tenor saxophone in the Israeli Air Force band.
In 1996, Anat enrolled in Boston's renowned Berklee College of Music, where she returned to the clarinet. During breaks between semesters, she visited New York, making a beeline for Smalls to soak up the hybrid of grooves, world music and mainstream jazz that was evolving there. Back in Boston, she played tenor saxophone in a variety of musical contexts including Afro-Cuban, Argentinean, klezmer, contemporary Brazilian music and classical Brazilian choro. (She also began a lasting association with Sherrie Maricle’s top-shelf all-woman big band Diva Jazz Orchestra.)
Moving to New York, Anat quickly found work in Brazilian groups like the Choro Ensemble and Duduka Da Fonseca’s Samba Jazz Quintet, and started performing with David Ostwald’s “Gully Low Jazz Band,” which explored the music of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet and their Pan-American contemporaries. She eventually documented her bona fides on her debut CD, Place and Time, one of All About Jazz’s “Best Debut Albums of 2005.”
This fall she released Notes From The Village, her fourth album as a leader (on her own label, Anzic). The new disc captures the thrilling energy of her live shows, and finds her leading a quartet of long-time collaborators (and some of the most engaging and sought-after young performers in New York) pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Omer Avital, and drummer Daniel Freedman. (Guitarist Gilad Hekselman fills in for Lindner in Arcata, while Joe Martin, who was last heard here in pianist David Berkman's trio, joins the group on bass.)
Early responses to the album have been overwhelmingly positive; The New York Times’ Nate Chinen wrote that “Notes From The Village is a resounding confirmation; yes, she is the real deal.” DownBeat Magazine awarded the release four stars, noting that “Cohen...mix[es] a gift for melody and an improvisational fluidity that has few peers today.”
Anat’s accomplishments have been recognized in a flurry of awards and distinctions from critics and fans alike; She topped the Rising Star-Clarinet category in the DownBeat critics poll in both 2007 and 2008, and placed prominently in three other categories including Rising Star Jazz Artist, where she ranked second (and was the only female artist to make the list). Her repeat as the Jazz Journalists Association's Clarinetist of the Year (2007 and 2008) marks a first in the history of the awards. Her albums Noir and Poetica both appeared on scores of year-end best-of lists, including those of Slate and Jazz Times. Her July 2007 engagement at the Village Vanguard in New York was a historic one, as she was the first female reed player, and the first Israeli, ever to headline at the club.
Of her latest (October 2008) run at the Vanguard, Jeff Tamarkin wrote for Jazz Times: "Watching Anat Cohen perform is a joy matched only by listening to her." And in the liner notes for Notes From the Village, Ira Gitler concludes: “She is formidable. Long may she continue to enrich the music in myriad ways.” There is every indication that her star will continue to rise for a long time to come.
Anat Cohen on NPR Music (including an October 22d, 2008 performance and interview on "Live at the Village Vanguard," a feature on "Weekend Edition Sunday," and appearances on "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz" and "Jazz Set with DeeDee Bridgewater")
The Village Vanguard set on WBGO's Blog (with photos and other extras)