Thursday, April 29, 2010

Anat Cohen - Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard (Anzic, 2010)

A multiple time recipient of the Downbeat Magazine "rising star" award for clarinet, this is Anat Cohen's first album to focus on that instrument exclusively. Originally inspired by the centennial of Benny Goodman's birth, the set list of this live album draws on standards that he would have been familiar with. However, there is noting stuffy or moldy fig about it, the music is played with a great deal of passion and energy. She is accompanied by Benny Green on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Opening with "Sweet Georgia Brown" (which always reminds me of going to see the Harlem Globetrotters with my father as a kid) the group takes the standard at a fast pace featuring sweet and hollow sounding clarinet, which swirls quickly over comping piano and strong bass and drums. Green leads a strong piano interlude before fast and high pitched clarinet returns to take things out. Medium tempo clarinet, light and fluttering like a bird in flight ushers in the lengthy version of "Lullaby of the Leaves" before the open ended improvisation gains speed, making way for a fast and swinging piano/bass/drums section. Yearning and keening clarinet returns to trade solo sections with Nash's agile drumming. Clarinet cuts through a deep and bluesy pocket with the familiar mournful melody of "St. James Infirmary" which builds moodily to a potent improvisation of deep and emotional playing. Bluesy piano and supple bass and drums keep things at a sultry simmer appropriate for a New Orleans standard. "After You've Gone" comes out light, fast and nimble with subtle bass and drumwork providing a firm foundation for Cohen's sweeping clarinet, that builds to a very fast swing tempo. Nash steps out for a powerful drum solo before the band returns to a fast "hot jazz" conclusion. Deep and rich piano sets the stage for "St. Louis Blues" with deep and soulful clarinet and a confident solo that gains momentum as if headed downhill. Peter Washington is featured with a lengthy bass solo and some impromptu scatting. The famous ballad "Body and Soul" receives a mellow and emotional reading, with the band taking a spare, light and spacious approach. Finally, "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" wraps up the set with a fast and strongly swinging performance, urged on with thick resonant bass and agile drumming. Green's fast piano encourages Cohen to step out with swirling clarinet that builds to a fast and powerful solo. This was a very accomplished album that takes its place in a long line of great jazz recorded live at that venerable club. The band is tight and exuberantly swinging and their music should appeal to a wide swath of the jazz audience. Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard - amazon.com

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