The Seattle Times Reviews Claroscuro

Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen sparkles on ‘Claroscuro’

‘Claroscuro’ (Anzic)

The clarinet went so hopelessly out of fashion in jazz after the swing era it was anybody’s guess when it would make a comeback. Don Byron gained the first major yardage, but the soulful, ebullient Israeli musician Anat Cohen has scored a touchdown. Perhaps because of her international background, Cohen takes jazz as part of a great continuum of rhythm- and blues-driven world musics, so she’s equally comfy wailing like a siren on a New Orleans funeral dirge (“And the World Weeps”), slinking modally over a Middle Eastern vamp (“Kick Off”), waxing spiritual on soprano saxophone with an African Kora and hand drums, and toasting Champagne licks with Cuban clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera on a Brazilian choro (“A Um Zero”).

Lest you think Cohen’s music is all deep and world-political, note that she’s also a girl who knows how to have fun, and dance with romantic colors: to wit, a swinging take on Edith Piaf’s signature song “La Vie En Rose” (with a cool, Louis Prima-like vocal by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon), and a devastating presentation of the lovesick Cartola ballad “As Rosas Nao Falam” (“The Roses Can’t Speak”).

This is the kind of music — warm, human, diverse and irresistible — that will not only bring the clarinet back into favor, but jazz itself.

Paul de Barros, Seattle Times jazz critic

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