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Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song

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Anat Cohen - Happy Song

This recording by the Anat Cohen Tentet shows the clarinetist and her ensemble traversing the widest musical topography she has in a very long time, visiting the countryside of the Balkans, the Amazonas of Brasil, Africa and making a nostalgic stopover in the country of Miss Cohen’s and Mr Lev-Ari’s birth via the latter’s Trills and Thrills, with its diaphanous, shimmering textures and luscious harmonies.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Happy Song

One has always experienced a special kind of exultation when listening to the music of Anat Cohen and the performance on this disc provokes an identical reaction. The elegance of her clarinet playing, for which she is renowned and decorated, becomes part of a natural landscape that mixes beauty and danger, and the sound of the unfettered joy in music-making whether it is on the obviously entitled “Happy Dance”, “Oh Baby”, Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro” or Souleymane Traoré’s “Kenedougou Foly”. Whether evocative of Boris Pasternak-like vistas (“Goodbye”) or long, yammering days in the rainforest (“Loro”), each track takes us to some wild place with trusted and inspiring musical friends.

One of those friends is Vitor Gonçalves, who’s seductively bent notes on “Loro” to magnify the song’s beauty exponentially as he masterfully manipulates his accordion, to magically sculpt the long, sustained inventions of his improvisations during his solo towards the middle of the song, and to lead the ensemble towards the song’s rapturous ending. Others are relatively new: guitarist Sheryl Bailey may be difficult to spot at times, but when she plays it is always with sublime taste. Nadje Noordhuis delivers a hugely powerful voice whenever she plays and Owen Broder plays with gospel-soaked gravitas on baritone saxophone as well as bass clarinet.

However, make no mistake; this is after all Anat Cohen’s place in the sun. Every piece she plays here she does with a kind of languid ease, each melodic variation following the other, quite inexorably, her sumptuous woody clarinet sound brilliantly caught in this recording. Nowhere is this better than on “Anat’s Doina” almost evocative of the celebrated Lautari of Romania which is played with visceral passion and musicality, its overt embellishments oscillating between insightful amplification of emotion on the breathtaking narrative “A Mayse” and attractive contortions of “Der Gasn Nigun” before the theatrical tautness and élan of “Foile-Shtick”.

The free-rhythm and highly melismatic “Doina” is brilliantly improvised. The improvisation is done on a more or less fixed descending pattern and by stretching the notes in a rubato-like manner, to reflect the performers’ mood and imagination the prolonged notes (the fourth; sometimes fourth above the floor note) make for a wonderfully pastoral atmosphere, which is brilliantly complex here because of the extraordinary instrumentation written for the Tentet by Oded Lev-Ari. Folk and Jazz traditions have seldom come together so gloriously as on this chart, clearly the high-point of this magnificent album.

Track list – 1: Happy Song; 2: Valsa Para Alice; 3: Oh Baby; 4: Anat’s Doina (A Mayse/Der Gasn Nigun/Foile-Shtick); 5: Loro; 6: Trills and Thrills; 7: Goodbye; 8: Kenedougou Foly

Personnel – Anat Cohen: clarinet; Oded Lev-Ari: musical director; Rubin Kodheli: cello; Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet and flugelhorn; Nick Finzer: trombone; Owen Broder: baritone saxophone and bass clarinet; James Shipp: vibraphone and percussion; Vitor Gonçalves: piano and accordion; Sheryl Bailey: guitar; Tal Mashliach: bass; Anthony Pinciotti: drums

Released – 2017
Label – Anzic Records
Runtime – 53:24

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