Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Anat Cohen Quartet - L'Astral, 7/6/2009

It was such a pleasure to see four musicians having visible fun onstage. When flowing lines weren't exiting her clarinet, Anat Cohen was off to the side, dancing and encouraging her bandmates with shouts of "Yeah!" She and guitarist Gilad Hekselman shared a similar liquid tone, with more emphasis on the body of the note than the attack. Anchored by bassist Joe Martin and drummer Daniel Freedman, the quartet played a mix of truly swinging tunes.

The set opened with Anat's arrangement of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," the head as a syncopated 9/8 Latin creature, releasing into swing for the solos. Cohen really hooked into the rhythm section, phrasing her lines with deep rhythmic intensity and locking in with Martin and Freedman. Hekselman phrased more like a horn player, riding over the rhythm section. All the soloists quoted the head, with varying degrees of liberty, to cue the end of their turns. Freedman's drum solo had him using his elbow to alter the pitch of his snare drum.

"The Purple Piece," an original Cohen composition, was a minor 3/4 tune that made great use of Cohen's facility with pitch-bend and glissando. Hekselman unleashed his chops on this tune, tapping a passage on the fretboard - perhaps in homage to visiting guitar heros Jeff Beck and Stanley Jordan. This led into a 6/8 Latin feel with Hekselman's bubbling comping.

"J Blues" opened with Cohen's intro, filling out a solo groove in the vein of Eddie Harris. Quotes from various big band chestnuts came out in the solos, including "Air Mail Special" - fitting, coming off Anat's Clarinetwork tribute to Benny Goodman at the Vanguard last week. Martin and Freedman hooked up on a soft yet intensely propulsive swing feel, Freedman swinging the side-stick like Philly Joe.

After a gorgeous reading of "Body and Soul," the set ended with the choro "Uma Zero" by the grand master Pixinguinha. Freedman used his floor tom as a surdo and nailed the particular brand of snare-drum swing of a Brazilian percussion group.

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