Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen is on top of the music world. She has been voted as clarinetist of the year six years in a row (2007 to 2012) by both the Jazz Journalists Association and Downbeat Magazine. She has been compared to Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, who are considered by many as the greatest clarinetists in history.
Cohen will be performing in concert March 8 in Edmonton and March 9 and10 in Winnipeg. There are no other Canadian shows planned as of yet.
“Being clarinetist of the year is an honour that I will never take for granted, and I appreciate all the support from the jazz music critics and my fans. Lots of people associate the clarinet as exclusively for folk music and klezmer music, but the clarinet is a prime musical instrument in jazz as well,” the 36-year-old Cohen said in a phone interview.
In her upcoming concerts, Cohen will play music from the latest of her six CDs, Claroscuro, which features 11 songs that range in style from New Orleans to Brazilian and New York City jazz. Released last October, the CD has been praised by jazz writers as showcasing Cohen’s innovative arrangements on both the clarinet and the saxophone.
“I enjoy playing different styles of jazz. I pay tribute to Artie Shaw in La Vie En Rose and feature New Orleans jazz in And The World Weeps on Claroscuro.”
Anat is not the only Cohen in her family to have become an acclaimed musician. She often joins brothers Avishai and Yuval on tour in concert, calling themselves The Three Cohens.
The Cohens all excelled as jazz musicians in Israel where they grew up. The trio has strong roots as well in Boston, where they studied music at the Berklee College Of Music.
Avishai Cohen, the youngest of the trio, plays the trumpet, and elder brother, Yuval, plays the soprano saxophone.
“We all had talent and were influenced by the jazz recordings that we heard from our father in the house. I took to jazz when Avishai played the trumpet. But our skills became honed when Berklee did recruiting in Israel for all of us to get music scholarships. First, they wanted Yuval, then me and then Avishai,” Anat Cohen said.
As The Three Cohens, Anat and her brothers recorded the CD Family last year.
However, Anat has been the most acclaimed of the three, and is astute as both an artist and a music entrepreneur.
She has released her six CDs on her Anzic Records label, including the highly acclaimed Clarinetwork (2010), a salute to Benny Goodman on his centennial.
Cohen studied classical music at age 12, but switched to jazz in high school, playing for the Jaffa Conservatory Dixieland Band. Prior to enrolling at Berklee, she served in the Israeli military, playing in the Israeli Armed Forces Band.
“Our soldiers put their lives at risk every day, so it was a great honour to play for them, and [I was] proud of all I achieved, even before going to Berklee”.
After graduating from Berklee in 1998, Cohen developed world music genres in Afro-Cuban, Argentine tango, Brazilian, klezmer and other world music genres.
“Oddly enough, most of us think of klezmer as Jewish music, but the minor sound in the clarinet is found in other cultures as well. The great thing about playing music is that I think of myself as an international musician with no borders.”
Although she has lived in New York for the past 20 years, Cohen is considered a music ambassador for Israel.
“I feel blessed that people view me as an ambassador of music for Israel, even if I perform not only in Israel, but all over the world.”
Anat Cohen will perform March 8 at 9 p.m. at Yardbird Suite in Edmonton. For tickets, call 780-432-0438 or go to www.yardbirdsuite.com.
She will also do three shows March 9 at 8 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Rady Jewish Community Centre Winnipeg. For tickets, call 204-477-7534 or go to www.radyjcc.com