Posts Tagged ‘Village Vanguard’

Anat Cohen

Saxophonist/Clarinetist Anat Cohen claims making good music is all about being yourself.

I first discovered the music of Anat Cohen right around the time I moved to New York City through a 2008 article in JazzTimes. The article was titled New Visionaries, and featured profiles on Esperanza Spalding, Mathias Eick, Robert Glasper, Aaron Parks, Christian Scott, Marcus Strickland, and Cohen. I never thought that the above article would start a chain reaction which would put me in the kitchen of Cohen’s west village apartment drinking espresso last week. But I suppose the story of my coffee date with Cohen goes back even further to Chicago where I first met the guitarist Howard Alden.

Woody Allen’s 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown, about a fictional guitarist who worshiped Django Reinhardt, played a significant part in my becoming a jazz musician. I loved the film’s soundtrack and began taking jazz guitar lessons, while teaching myself Reinhardt’s style. Though it was Alden — who played the guitar parts for the film — who I first began to copy when I transcribed his solo from “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” which I then played pretty much note for note on my audition for DePaul University’s school of music. Years later in 2007 I was able to sneak backstage at Chicago’s Symphony Center where Alden was performing with Dick Hyman, to corner him for an autograph. A few months after, Alden would perform with the jazz group of which I’m a member, the Hot Club of Detroit, and I’m happy to say that we’ve enjoyed a working relationship, and a friendship, ever since.

It was at Alden’s New York City apartment where I first learned he had a performing relationship with Cohen, shortly after I had read the JazzTimes article mentioned above. The two of them have performed in a number of the same circles over the years, including their regular working duo. This spring, we featured that duo as special guests with the Hot Club of Detroit for a couple shows, and last Saturday we performed with Cohen at a jazz festival in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Stopping by her place last week to drop off some music, I asked if I could come back the next day to pick her brain on the record making process, and talk about her latest album, “Clarinetwork: Live At The Village Vanguard.”

Brady: I think of your album “Notes From the Village” as a decisively modern jazz album, but it’s also just flat-out fun, which is what keeps bringing me back to that record. It makes me feel good. What was your philosophy going into making that record?

Cohen: I like that you say it makes you “feel good,” because that’s my philosophy in general. It wasn’t like that was my philosophy going into the studio; to make an album that makes you “feel good,” because basically it was a very rushed process. My second and third records, “Poetica” and “Noir”, were recorded in 2006, and suddenly it was 2008 and I had been playing all kinds of music with my quartet for a couple of years, and I wanted to capture that live feeling of what we had been doing on stage. So I checked to see if the guys were available, and if a studio and engineer was available, and I thought, wow, everyone is available, now I have to go into the studio and do it! I figured we would play some material that we had been performing live, and come up with some new stuff for the album. My compositions on the album were completed for the album. The idea was not to try to limit the guys with a certain number of choruses, or to over produce, or worry about the lengths of tracks, but to try to keep the freedom going. You know how some people have this whole concept that tracks on albums should be five minutes maximum, otherwise they won’t be played on the radio. But the truth is jazz won’t be played on mainstream radio anyway, and people who like jazz will play a track even if it’s 12 minutes. So it really doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s nice to have a couple of short tracks, but as far as the music, I wasn’t worried about the length. So we rehearsed, and added some repertoire. We talked about playing the Sam Cook song “A Change is Gonna Come,” and Jason (Jason Lidner, piano) and Daniel (Daniel Freedman, drums) went home together to one of their places, and they called me and said, “We got, we got it!” So they came up with some ideas too. It was very much group work. Jason contributed his arrangement for “Siboney,” by Ernesto Lacouna, which is really nice. It’s a Cuban song, but it has a lot of reggae, and a lot of different rhythms that are not really Cuban. So I think we captured some of the live spirit, and everyone plays excellent on the record. It was really fun. (more…)


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