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Cohen Fest

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This year marks the inception of Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture, a week of concerts, lectures, and films at the Rady Jewish Community Centre that runs from November 13 through 21. Two of the concerts will be of particular interest to jazz lovers.

The first is the headliner concert, “The 3 Cohens,” featuring siblings Avishai on trumpet, Anat on tenor sax and clarinet, and Yuval on soprano sax. I first encountered the Cohens through Avishai. As a trumpet player myself, I was naturally drawn to him when he came to do an Asper series concert in 2007. I immediately fell in love with his musical concept and approach. I later found out he had two siblings, Anat and Yuval, with whom he had a group called The 3 Cohens.

All three Cohens attended the same schools in Tel-Aviv and later each one also attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. Their musical influences are very broad. They were all accomplished classical musicians, playing in the youth symphonic orchestra in Tel-Aviv, but it was not long before they discovered their life-long love for jazz. All three have now been on the New York jazz scene for nearly a decade, establishing themselves as musicians and bandleaders in their own rights.

Together, The 3 Cohens have released two recordings: ONE (2003) and Braid (2007). All but one track on Braid are originals by each of the siblings, and together they show the breadth of their musical influences. Many of the tunes have a classical tinge to them, and often you can hear the rich musical history of the Middle East. The recording showcases the siblings’ ability to communicate on an almost uncanny level, seamlessly intertwining solo and accompaniment, and finishing each other’s sentences as they weave their individual voices into one.

The 3 Cohens will be playing two concerts to close out the festival, and will be joined by Will Bonness on the piano, Steve Kirby on the bass, and Quincy Davis on drums.

The second not-to-be-missed concert, “Anna-Lisa Kirby Sings Leonard Cohen,” takes place earlier that week. Anna-Lisa cut her teeth as a singer in the 1990s in jazz clubs in New York and has performed across Canada and in Europe. Since 2003, she has been performing and teaching in Winnipeg where she is a frequent featured artist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, the Oceanic Jazz Orchestra, and the U of M Jazz Studies faculty.

Over the past couple of years, Anna-Lisa has been bringing crowds to their feet with her powerful performances of “Hallelujah” and “Bird on a Wire,” two of Leonard Cohen’s signature songs. For this concert, she has the chance to explore more of the poet-songwriter’s repertoire. Expect to hear fresh approaches to “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Suzanne,” among others.

Anna-Lisa has the voice and dramatic intensity to carry Cohen’s brooding lyrics, and the simplicity of these songs offer ample room to showcase the artistry of her band: Steve Kirby on bass, Jimmy Greene on saxophone, Will Bonness on piano, Larry Roy on guitar, and Quincy Davis on drums.

The Tarbut festival also includes a classical concert, a Jewish comedian, a tribute to Mordecai Richler, and the release of Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors. Check for more information.

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