By MIKEL TOOMBS
For once, Anat Cohen did the expected.
The Israeli-born musician, the Jazz Journalists Association’s Clarinetist of the Year for the last three years, has expanded the range of her instrument (she also plays tenor saxophone) by joining Brazilian ensembles, both choro and samba, and incorporating tango, Afro-Cuban and even Russian music into her repertoire.
But now Cohen, who came to the U.S. in 1996 to attend the Berklee College of Music, has released “Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard” (it came out earlier this month on her own Anzic Records); the album is primarily a tribute to the man indelibly linked to the instrument in this country, Benny Goodman, who would’ve turned 100 last year. (The “King of Swing” died in 1986.)
“I hadn’t recorded anything under my name that is more of a straight-ahead sound,” Cohen said by phone from Dartmouth College, where she was in the midst of giving a lesson (She said she told her student to keep practicing).
“I’m not a clarinet player because of Benny Goodman. I can say that. Now, obviously, hearing him and enjoying immensely the way he played the clarinet — his sound, the swing, the arrangements of his band — yeah, it definitely affected me and inspired me.”
The impetus for what she would call “Clarinetwork: Benny Goodman and Beyond” was provided by the owner of Manhattan’s storied club The Village Vanguard: “Lorraine Gordon asked me to celebrate the clarinet for a week,” Cohen said. “She was really, really crazy about Benny Goodman. And I knew that for a fact. And I figured, Why not do something nice for everybody, and for myself?”
Cohen then “asked (pianist) Benny Green, (bassist) Peter Washington and (drummer) Lewis Nash to play and they all said, ‘Yes.’ And after I had such a great band and such a great week coming up, I said, ‘Guys, why aren’t we recording?’ And everybody was into it.”
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (April 27-28), Cohen brings her “Clarinetwork” group to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Tickets: $22.50. Reservations: 206-441-9729. Follow this link to the club’s Web site.
To visit Cohen’s Web site, click here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Mikel Toombs writes a weekly music column for the San Diego News Network.)