ANAT COHEN TENTET Anzic Records Happy Song
Jazz musicians often struggle to find suitable names for their scores. If there are lyrics, and presumably some theme, that makes the project a relatively simple matter. But what do you call an instrumental piece with no discernibly concrete subject? The latest album by reed player Anat Cohen could not have asked for a better, or more appropriate, epithet. The opening title track sets the joie de vivre tone for the whole eight-cut affair, just out on Cohen’s own label, Anzic Records.
The New York-based Israeli saxophonist and clarinetist has been churning out adventurous and entertaining vibes for some years now. In fact, it is surprising to learn that she is only 37. Over the past dozen or so years she has led and contributed to a broad range of works, including ventures of a definitively straightahead jazz type, Latin – predominantly pertaining to the Brazilian choro genre, big band outings, and releases together with her siblings – soprano saxman Yuval and acclaimed trumpeter Avishai.
While Cohen ain’t half bad on saxophone she has mostly garnered kudos for her performances on clarinet, and with good reason. She is simply a marvelous player of the instrument, and does herself proud on Happy Song, along with her nine cohorts and, importantly, under the musical arrangement aegis of fellow Israeli composer-arranger-producer and sometime pianist Oded Lev-Ari.
There are stellar turns everywhere you look, and the artistic ante never wanes a jot. The klezmerbluesy- informed “Anat’s Doina,” has Cohen unfurling trills, arpeggios and suitably kvetched notes with gay abandon, and the rest of the gang in tow on a rip-roaring roller-coaster of a three-part suite. And they even manage to let us down gently and delectably.
Meanwhile, “Valsa Para Alice” conjures up images of a doleful brass band from northern England of yesteryear, before moving onto more romantic climes complete with tripping-staccato accordion.
“Trills and Thrills” also hits the descriptive nail on the head and – surprise, surprise – also features some blues-rock distorted guitar shenanigans, courtesy of Sheryl Bailey. Betwixt there is some gorgeous, supremely lyrical solo work by Cohen, with the odd nod in the direction of good old Israel folky slots.
This may be Cohen’s most accomplished album yet, and it’s good to see her letting her hair down. BILL EVANS Another Time – The Hilversum Concert
There seems to be no end to the previously unheard, or even unknown, material that keeps on seeping out of vaults, or being proffered by some jazz fan who took the trouble to sweep off the cobwebs before conveying the treasure in question to the proper professional hands.
Another Time – The Hilversum Concert, led by peerlessly romantic pianist Bill Evans, found its way to Zev Feldman, who works at Resonance Records, from a Dutch follower of Evans’s oeuvre. It was an excellent development, as Feldman has made a habit of getting a host of jazz gems out there over the years, either as polished reissues or as first-time unearthings of some historic date.
From the very first chords of the opening cut, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” you know you are unmistakably deep in Evansland. The pianist’s trademark fingering is there in plain view, and his cohorts for the live 1968 date, at the studios of Netherlands Radio Union in Hilversum, to the southeast of Amsterdam. In terms of atmosphere it appears to have been a somewhat oxymoronic event. Judging by the clapping the audience was sparse, but Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette seem to have been blissfully undeterred by the low attendance and gave the nine numbers on the album their all, and then some.
Gomez, in particular, reels off some highly adventurous solos. The bassist was clearly in an inspired frame of mind for the gig. He attacks the theme from every which way on “Very Early, and Who Can I Turn To?” while on “Embraceable You” he launches into a shimmering opener which imparts a sense of a fuzzy photo before Evans points things in a more melodic direction.
All three musicians were at the height of their creative powers at the time, and there’s not a dull moment across the 47-minute live foray. And when the whole exercise is spearheaded by Bill Evans, you can’t miss.
NIELS KLEIN – BUJAZZO Groove and the Abstract Truth
Once again on the subject of album names, this one’s a doozy. Groove and the Abstract Truth says it all about this dynamic confluence between 39-year-old saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger Niels Klein and BuJazzO.
The latter is a diminutive of the Bundesjazzorchester, Germany’s official youth jazz orchestra.
Clearly all the youngsters are at the top of their game, and Klein steers them through choppy exploratory musical waters with great assuredness.
This is a lovely offering, which displays all the benefits to be had from a large, watertight jazz troupe while maintaining a sense of freshness and intimacy more readily associated with smaller outfits.
Relative youth notwithstanding, Klein – not to be confused with 61-year-old American guitarist- composer Nels Cline – although the latter is similar eclectically minded, has led and participated in a wide range of instrumental settings.
His discography as leader, to date, features trios, quartets and large lineups.
The sonic sensibility here arches across straightahead jazz, rock and pop sentiments, softly lyrical vocals – such as on “Broken,” with Laura Totenhagen doing a fine job with fronting the instrumentalists without ever breaking out of sonorous delicacy mode.
The wonderfully named “Close Encounters of the Blurred Kind,” one of four numbers arranged by Klein, has all the hallmarks of big band ethos but with plenty of contemporary vibes. Betwixt the traditional stuff there are departures into more angular avenues, and the piece is shot through with subtle shifts of gears.
The record closes with the juddering, hereand- now “Stock Market Crash On the Planet Boo Boo,” with a choral and instrumental tour de force laying the groundwork for Matthias Wagerman to dive into a German-language rap. That is seamlessly augmented by Sebastian Stanko’s inventive trombone solo, with the rest of gang keeping the undulating base line in full view.