Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

March/April 2013: Freddy Cole

Anat Cohen & Gregoire Maret: A Dance of Shadows

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If your only conception of jazz clarinet is Benny Goodman and his cohorts from the Swing Era, keep thinking. Since 1942 or so, the instrument has matured into one as compelling as any other in the hands of the right musician.

Anat Cohen is that right musician. She reminds us that the clarinet is rich and capable of deep joy and expression. In the words of Jazz Police, “she becomes a singer, a poet, a mad scientist, laughing—musically—with the delight of reaching that new place, that new feeling, with each chorus.” In her own words: “When I share music with people—other musicians or an audience—it always feels like a celebration to me.” In my words: she sounds like my kind of musician!

Anat was born in Tel Aviv, Israel into a musical family. She was interested in music from an early age, attending the prestigious Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts where she majored in jazz on both clarinet and tenor saxophone. Her journey next took her to Berklee College in Boston, where she was exposed to a huge range of music through students who came from all around the world. Latin music in particular took ahold of her. “Hearing them play the samba of Brazil, chacarrera of Argentina and cumbia of Colombia, I loved those rhythms immediately and was drawn to playing them myself,” Anat says.

Anat wasted no time in moving to New York following graduation. There, she was quickly recognized as a budding talent by musicians and audiences alike. She has been a busy performer and composer ever since, which is no surprise considering her stellar musicianship, expressive ability, and versatility. Cohen has released multiple records as bandleader, starting with her 2005 debut, Place and Time. Her 2012 release, Claroscuro, borrows from the Italian word chiaroscuro, describing the meeting of shadow and light. The music on the record “ranges from buoyant dances to darkly lyrical ballads, drawing inspiration from New Orleans and New York, Africa and Brazil.”

The sheer variety of music she plays is notable, and an affirmation of the beautiful melting pot contemporary jazz has become. Since the 1990s, a considerable group of Israeli jazz musicians have made New York their home. They have enriched the scene, blending their own traditional melodies and rhythms with the more cutting post-bop sound of New York. We all benefit from this.

This is not Anat’s first time to Winnipeg—she was here just a couple of years ago with her brothers Avishai and Yuval, performing as “The 3 Cohens” in the Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture. Those who attended the concert will remember the siblings’ brilliant musical communication, as they traded off between melody and harmony without a word being spoken.

Anat appears with her own quartet this time: Jason Lindner on piano, Joe Martin on bass and Daniel Freedman on drums. They will be joined by Swiss jazz harmonica master, Gregoire Maret. One of only a handful of jazz harmonica players, Maret is in high demand, second only to the great Toots Thielemans. He has recorded and toured with big-name jazz stars such as Pat Metheny, Marcus Miller, and Cassandra Wilson—the latter two appear on his first album as a leader, an eponymous album released last year. Maret is a flexible musician much like Anat, influenced by music from all over the world.

I am very much looking forward to hearing this unusual combination of clarinet and harmonica. I find it hard to imagine exactly how it will sound, but I know lots of great music will come out of it!

You can catch Anat Cohen and Gregoire Maret in concert on March 9 and 10 as part of the Izzy Asper Jazz Performance Series.  Some tickets are still available. Anat will also offer a jazz masterclass at the Berney Theatre on Saturday morning—everyone is welcome to attend!

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