Sunday, April 8, 2018
Concert Review: The Anat Cohen Tentet at the Gem Theater
Anat Cohen threw her head back and placed a hand over her heart as trombonist Nick Fitzer took a stirring solo at the Gem Theater on Saturday. Her ecstatic response was justified. The transcendent 100-minute set by the Israeli clarinetist and her Tentet seamlessly shifted between jazz, klezmer, psychedelic rock and Brazilian and Malian folk musics.
An audience of more than 200 took in the global sound that was imbued with a mysticism that verged on holiness. While the repertoire was based on Cohen’s 2017 album Happy Song, the concert was significantly more boisterous than the lively recording. Specific artists were occasionally evoked- Benny Goodman’s “Oh Baby” was given a wild reading and a couple segments recalled Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland- but the most rapturous portions of the evening combined disparate styles to create entirely new sounds.
Cohen, 38, has been working toward the auspicious synthesis for most of her wide-ranging career. She surrounded herself with an international cast that included the Albanian cellist Rubin Kodheli, the Israeli bassist Tal Mashiach, the Kansas City trumpeter Hermon Mehari and the Brazilian pianist and accordionist Vitor Gonçalves and on Saturday. The singular collaborators allowed Cohen to achieve a panoramic sound that avoided the contrived approach of academic exercises and the mushy sentimentality of misguided musical do-gooders.
In achieving profundity free of pretense and by playing clarinet like a
cheerful version of Eric Dolphy, Cohen surpassed the achievements of like-minded predecessors including Gil Evans, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and Gunther Schuller.
(Original image by Plastic Sax. From left to right: Vitor Gonçalves, Sheryl Bailey, Tal Mashiach, Anat Cohen, Nick Finzer, Hermon Mehari, Rubin Kodheli, Owen Broder, James Shipp and Anthony Pinciotti.)