By Jack Bowers / All About Jazz
This is a wonderfully recorded session, overflowing with tender, charming melodies, and everyone involved is a world-class musician. On the other hand, it’s not exactly jazz: more like chamber music, bordering at times on classical and not too many steps removed from the venerable klezmer tradition. There is improvisation, but it flows so easily from the arrangements that one is scarcely aware of it.
Clarinetist Anat Cohen is the leader, and this is an album she has wanted to record for some time, “to share some of what [she has] learned about playing the clarinet in various musical contexts. In this instance, the framework includes folk and popular songs from various sources, original compositions by Cohen (“The Purple Piece,” “La Casa del Llano ) and bassist Omer Avital (who arranged six of the ten selections), Jacques Brel’s seductive “Chanson des Vieux Amants and one authentic jazz theme, John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament. These are songs, Cohen writes, that she “has loved for years. And it’s easy to understand why, as they truly are lovely.
Cohen, who’s no slouch on alto or tenor sax, plays clarinet exclusively here, supported for the most part by Avital, pianist Jason Lindner (a superb accompanist) and drummer Daniel Freedman. A string quartet is added on four selections, with percussionist Gilad (and strings) on Avital’s impressionistic “Cypresses. “I’ve always associated the clarinet with sounds that are flowing, expressive and intimate . . . i.e, poetic, Cohen writes. “I made this album, and named itPoetica, to inspire others to share this association with me.
Cohen, as noted, is an outstanding musician who leaves no doubt why she was named a “rising star on clarinet in last year’s Down Beat Magazine critics poll. While she plays marvelously, one should keep in mind that the music on offer isn’t, for the most part, jazz, and not expect to hear the dynamic licks of a Buddy DeFranco, Eddie Daniels, Paquito D’Rivera or even Don Byron, even though Cohen clearly has channeled each of them for inspiration. The album is inspiring too, and while its reason for being is love, not money, it is nonetheless worth seeking out and savoring.