Anat Cohen’s performance with her quartet at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre Sunday night showed just why she’s been winning all kinds of awards in the jazz world — including Clarinest of the Year five years running from the Jazz Journalists Association.
For 90 minutes, Cohen and company — pianist Jason Lindner, stand-up bassist Omer Avital and drummer Daniel Freedman — left no musical stone unturned. From the song selection, which ranged from classics in the Brazilian and Cuban traditions to original compositions, to the highly accomplished technicality and physicality of the playing, the band achieved a unique push-and-pull on the level of some of history’s finest jazz musicians. It was just a shame that the audience was so small, but a return trip would probably guarantee a big buzz based on this show.
Opening number “Anat’s Dance,” one of Lindner’s compositions, served as a fine introduction to all of the players’ styles, from Cohen’s fluid yet muscular clarinet playing to Freedman’s full-body assault on the drum kit. After an opening solo, Cohen quickly ceded the spotlight to her bandmates, as each took a solo turn — Avital in particular fired up the stage with his sprawling fingerboard attacks.
Cohen switched to tenor saxophone for the next piece, the sprawling “Everything That You Could Be,” featuring some funky playing from Avital. The classic “The Wedding” brought things down a bit, beginning with a lilting piano solo from Lindner and slowly building with Cohen on alto saxophone and another meaty solo from Avital.
The best was yet to come though, with a long version of Ernesto Lecuona’s “Siboney,” which stretched each player to the limits. As Freedman held down the song’s swinging rhythms, Cohen switched back and forth between her clarinet and saxophones, slowly building to a solo moment that featured some of her finest playing of the evening. When the rest of the band returned for the song’s climax, the crowd went nuts.
They followed this with a fun and funky version of the Coasters’ “Searchin,’” a nice reprieve after the epic jamming on “Siboney.” But even with the comparatively simpler composition, the band still managed to pull out a nuanced and complicated (in the best way) performance.
The main set closed out with a new song by Freedman, “Our Brothers,” featuring some of the most physical playing of the evening. Lindner, muting the piano wires with his right hand while knocking out rhythms with his left, started the song with an eerie chiming, before the rest of the band barreled in. Fittingly, the song gave Freedman his best chance to shine, as he utilized literally his whole body during his jaw-dropping drum solo.
Oddly enough, Cohen didn’t show off any of her own compositions until the encore ballad “The Purple Piece.” The song’s easy, flowing structure and subtle melodies provided the perfect close to the evening — and kind of made you wish Cohen had tackled more of her own songs. Here’s hoping she comes back soon to do just that.
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