The winners were selected through two rounds of voting by members of the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA). They first analyzed the work of well-known jazz artists throughout the 2014 calendar year to select the award nominees before starting a second voting round that determined the winners of each award category.
The aim of JJA’s Jazz Awards is to recognize meaningful contributions to jazz music and journalism, as well as excellence in jazz performance and composition.
Winners of the musical categories, detailed below, will be presented with their awards at one of their upcoming concerts. Media/Journalism award winners will have to wait until June 16 to find out if they won at the JJA Media Awards party on June 16 at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.
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It begins with meandering clarinet and clipped, four-on-the-floor percussion. A little bit later comes a countermelody, and the image that comes to mind is something from early New Orleans, or perhaps a Mediterranean folk song. It's even called "Putty Boy Strut" — that could be an obscure Jelly Roll Morton tune, right?
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The last time the clarinet was popular in jazz, fans still danced to the music, and they were hailing Benny Goodman for blowing a mean licorice stick with his swing band. But over the past decade or so, the Israeli musician Anat Cohen has been working to make the clarinet relevant and cool again in jazz.
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When, if ever, have you heard the clarinet played as magically as this; the pure music of the instrument given as naturally as breathing, yet recreated from an entirely novel perspective? When have you seen fingerwork as scintillating and heard the breathing as inspired—short, perfunctory and declarative, and rhetorical gasps alternating with seemingly interminable, heavenly sighs… Anat Cohen gives us tone-poems first and pieces second, her technique as unobtrusive as it is effortlessly fluent, lissom and precise. Her record company, Anzic has struck gold with Luminosa and I can only hope that such a perspective, natural and unforced talent will remain untarnished by commercial pressures. Never for a moment would I want to be without the recordings of Benny Goodman, Buddy DeFranco and Eddie Daniels, but I would give and arm and a leg for Anat Cohen’s. For the sheer memorability and musical recreation, Ms. Cohen stands alone.
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Clarinetist Anat Cohen has always been a world musician, bringing sounds from around the globe into her style of jazz. On Luminosa, she expands on these eclectic musical passions to deliver a beautiful, 11-tune album. Cohen sets the scene with her touring band—Jason Lindner on keyboards, Joe Martin on bass and Daniel Freedman on drums—then sprinkles in Brazilian musicians from her new band Choro Aventuroso and tops it off with guest spots from guitarists Romero Lubambo and Gilad Hekselman as well as percussionist Gilmar Gomes. And the results are stunning.
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The genre choro — a word which means "cry" in Portuguese — is often described as "the New Orleans jazz of Brazil." Like its U.S. counterpart, both are Afro-Western hybrids which emerged in the early 20th century; both call for jam sessions showcasing improvisation and virtuosity. Both jazz and choro are also the domains of clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen. Her newest band, the quartet Choro Aventuroso, culminates an affinity and intense study of Brazilian music — one which began as part of an international community of jazz students at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Jazz Night In America visits Jazz at Lincoln Center to catch Cohen's group play its modernized take on waltzes, mazurkas and African-Brazilian rhythms such as the lundu — all of which help characterize the essence of choro.
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When she’s onstage, Anat Cohen likes to dance and snap her fingers while bantering with the audience and shouting approvingly at her bandmates. You get the sense she’s trying not to take things too seriously—until, that is, she brings her instrument to her lips and some truly deep stuff comes pouring out.
“I feel like sometimes I get even more goofy onstage than I am offstage,” Ms. Cohen told me recently at her Williamsburg apartment. “I’m not trying to make the music less than what it is. Even if it’s hard for me and I have to think about a lot of details, it’s none of the audience’s business. I don’t want them to feel that I’m having a hard time.”
By: Matthew Kassel
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When guests began to arrive at Longwood Gardens in the early evening this past Saturday, the site was getting ready for closing to the general public, but not for people holding tickets for the Gardens’ Jazz Series, where theAnat Cohen Quartet was set to perform in the grand ballroom to a sold-out audience.
Upon entering one of the best flower conservatories in the world, concertgoers were warmly greeted by Anne, one of the Gardens’ superb volunteers who happened to give a special backstage tour to the four-acre conservatory to one particular pair of guests. The feature on display: “Orchid Extravaganza” (showing now thru March 29).
By: Marianne Gunther
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During the past few years, Cohen has emerged as a singular voice on clarinet, the disarming lyricism of her playing matched by the nimbleness of her technique and the cushioned warmth of her tone (more difficult to achieve on the recalcitrant clarinet than casual listeners might realize). Brazilian music long has been a closely held interest of Cohen’s, and she gives it radiant voice in “Luminosa.” But Cohen defines the music more broadly than some might, stepping far beyond familiar bossa nova repertoire. Instead, Cohen brings her imploring, slightly muted tone to music of Milton Nascimento, rides a pulsing rhythmic accompaniment in an original by Romero Lubambo (who plays guitar here) and duets joyously with accordionist Vitor Goncalves in dance-inspired music by Severino Araujo. Some of the most compelling works here were composed by Cohen, who distinguishes herself with the sublime melody of “Ima,” the wails and whoops of “Happy Song” and the catchy main riff of “In the Spirit of Baden.” She’s joined by her quartet and various guests in music that ultimately addresses the ear gently, as Cohen’s art usually does. (To be released Tuesday.)
By: Howard Reich
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"Luminosa" is out today on Anzic Records.
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"Luminosa" reflects the sounds of Brasil from traditional choro music to the songs of Milton Nascimento and Edu Lobo. Along with these influences there are a few of my own songs and our take on Flying Lotus’ “Putty Boy Strut.”
“That’s the thing about jazz,” Marcus Roberts explained as he settled in on the piano bench in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Friday night. “There’s room for everybody’s personality and perspective.” And certainly the opening night of the inaugural Bridge Jazz Festival proved that with a diverse array music all nestled under the big umbrella of “jazz.” Three bands. Three unique approaches. All with a decidedly international spin.
By: Greg Haymes
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Anat’s seventh album as a leader – to be released by Anzic Records on March 17, 2015 – sees the globe-trotting jazz star range from beautiful originals to Brazilian classics and beyond
Celebrating the release of “Luminosa,” the Anat Cohen Quartet plays a five-night run at New York City’s Jazz Standard from March 4 to 8
“The lyric beauty of her tone, the easy fluidity of her technique and the extroverted manner of her delivery make this music accessible to all.” — Chicago Tribune
Onstage or on record, the music of Anat Cohen positively glows – with virtuosity, with charisma, with the sheer joy of creation – and never more brightly than on her seventh album as a bandleader, Luminosa. To be released by Anzic Records on March 17, 2015, Luminosa sees the clarinetist-saxophonist play singing, dancing originals, interpret Brazilian classics by the likes of Milton Nascimento, and even re-imagine electronica as acoustica with an ingenious arrangement of a Flying Lotus tune. Members from Anat’s touring quartet – keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Daniel Freedman – appear on the album, as do guest guitarists Romero Lubambo and Gilad Hekselman, percussionist Gilmar Gomes and the Brazilian players of her new band Choro Aventuroso. Anat – born and raised into a musical family in Tel Aviv, Israel, and a resident of New York City since 1999 – has been named the top clarinetist in both the readers and critics polls in DownBeat, the jazz bible, for multiple years running. And her fluency in the jazz tradition is utterly at one with her flair for Brazilian music. As the Brazilian Press has declared: “Anat is an Israeli who seems like a Brazilian when she plays samba.” A true citizen of the world, Anat speaks a universal language through her horn.
About the album, Anat says: “The sound of Luminosa reflects my musical life in New York City. I flow between modern and traditional jazz, between samba and choro – all maybe in a week’s time.” She recorded the album at Avatar Studios in Manhattan, producing the album with Lindner and Oded Lev-Ari (her longtime friend and label partner, who arranged and produced her acclaimed 2007 album Noir for the Anzic Orchestra). Oded says: “The goal in the studio was to create an atmosphere where it was like a session in Anat’s living room, with people dropping by – her quartet is there, some choro guys show up, Romero comes by to play guitar, Jason brings in an electronica tune. It was like a party where everyone felt free to interact, have fun and create.”
Luminosa kicks off with “Lilia,” the first of the album’s three songs associated with Brazilian icon Milton Nascimento. In 2013, Anat led her quartet in a full evening of Nascimento at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, including his compositions “Lilia” and “Cais” and his interpretation of Edu Lobo’s “Beatriz,” all on Luminosa. “I first heard Nascimento’s Clube da Esquina album in the ’90s when I was at school in Boston – just the sound of his voice drew me in,” she says. “I adore the expressiveness of his singing, and his songs are like short stories. He’s from Minas Gerais, where they have a sound that’s distinct from Rio or Bahia, less traditional – the harmonies go to different, unexpected places. I play ‘Cais’ and ‘Beatriz’ on bass clarinet, which mirrors his vocal range. ”
With her original “In the Spirit of Baden,” Anat pays tribute to another Brazilian musical hero: guitarist-composer Baden Powell. “Every year, the Choro Club in Brasilia pays homage to a different composer, and last year when I played there, it was Baden Powell,” she explains. “His music is very melodic and danceable, so I wrote something in that spirit.” Guitarist Romero Lubambo, from Rio de Janeiro, is a key guest on this track and several others, including his own Bach-meets-baião piece “Bachiao.”
Choro – the irrepressible urban popular music style born in Brazil – has long been a passion of Anat’s, with the genre inspiring her return to the clarinet as a student after years of focusing on saxophone. She recorded the 2007 album Nosso Tempo for Anzic as a key member of the Choro Ensemble, and she has headlined shows in New York with the Choro Ensemble and her new band Choro Aventuroso, with Vitor Gonçalves (accordion), Cesar Garabini (seven-string guitar) and Sergio Krakowski (Pandeiro). Teamed with those players on Luminosa, she interprets K-Ximbinho’s “Ternura” (“Tenderness”) and Severino Araujo’s “Espinha de Bacalhau” (“Spine of the Codfish”), pieces by two top clarinetists.
“Choro is fabulous music,” Anat enthuses. “Like early jazz, it often features the clarinet. It’s very challenging for the player – choro players are masters of their instruments. Choro means ‘cry,’ and the interpretation and personalization of melodies is the point, as in jazz. Expressing the soul of a melody is the holy grail in choro. There’s also a constant conversation in choro groups, an ensemble polyphony that’s complex. But there should also be a lightness to it, a feel-good grooviness. That’s a challenge and thrill to achieve. Whether it’s choro or samba, Brazilian music makes me feel alive and full of emotions. In this day and age, jazz can sometimes feel like it belongs to the musicians. But when I first went to Brazil, I immediately felt that music there belonged to the people. I like that.”
The album’s left-of-center inclusion is its reimagining of “Putty Boy Strut,” the catchy number by electronica innovator Flying Lotus. “Jason brought that tune in – he’s always introducing me to new sounds,” Anat explains. “The original was just so non-acoustic that at first it was, like, ‘What do we do with this?’ But there’s something not only grooving about it, but also kind of humorous. It was really fun to imitate electronic music with acoustic instruments instead of the other way around, as it usually is. Jason is so good at translating grooves and sounds that now it feels like it was written for us.”
Another of Anat’s originals on Luminosa is the pensive ballad “Ima” (“mother” in Hebrew). “I’ve lived so much of my life now away from home,” she says. “I was thinking of my mom when I wrote this piece, missing her.” The emotional flipside is her infectious “Happy Song.” Anat explains: “When I write, I tend toward minor-key themes, so I challenged myself to compose something upbeat, with major chords. And I’m happy with it!” The album’s closing original and jazziest number is “The Wein Machine,” featuring Anat on tenor sax (as well as up-and-coming Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman). It’s a tribute to George Wein, indefatigable impresario of the Newport Jazz Festival. Anat was first invited by Wein to play the Newport Jazz Festival in 2007; last year, she was music director of the Newport Jazz Festival Now 60! all-star band that toured the U.S. for the festival’s 60th anniversary. “The tune’s title comes from the sign that’s on the golf cart George drives around the festival grounds,” she explains. “He’s 89, but never stops – he loves jazz and keeps opening the door for young artists, searching for honesty in the music. He’s inspirational.”
Oded Lev-Ari, who has known Anat since they were at school in Tel Aviv together, sees Luminosa as a key album in her evolution. “Anat has always been a versatile musician, able to bounce between multiple aesthetics. Her familiarity with the styles she plays goes deep, though – she doesn't only play Brazilian music, for instance, she also speaks Portuguese. So whether it’s choro or traditional jazz, her relationship with the art is cultural, with reverence for the history of the music. These various styles have often been a bit segregated in terms of Anat's recorded output, but this album is different. This is not Anat’s ‘Brazilian Album.’ To me, it is Anat’s ‘Anat Album.’ Beyond being an extraordinary instrumentalist, she is able to communicate pure emotion to the listener. That’s what is front and center on this album.”
For her part, Anat sums up the album this way: “The title Luminosa is Portuguese for luminous – something shining, especially in the dark. To me, music is a luminous experience. Whenever I’m immersed in it, life lights up for me, no matter what else is going on. Whether it’s performing a concert with my quartet or sitting in with my peers, enjoying musical conversations at home with my brothers or hanging and playing choro with my friends – sharing moments in that bright space of music are the happiest times.”
Whether playing clarinet or saxophone, Anat has delighted the most knowing of jazz sages: Nat Hentoff praised her “bursting sound and infectious beat,” Dan Morgenstern her “gutsy, swinging” style, Ira Gitler her “liquid dexterity and authentic feeling,” and Gary Giddins her musicality “that bristles with invention.”
As a leader, Anat launched her Anzic discography with 2005’s Place & Time, a quartet/quintet session named one of the year’s best debuts by All About Jazz. Her two ambitious releases of 2007 – Noir (presenting Anat with a jazz orchestra) and Poetica (a chamber-jazz feature for her clarinet) – led The New York Times to call her “one of the brightest, most original young instrumentalists in jazz.” Notes from the Village, released in 2008, was a showcase for her multi-reed virtuosity mostly in a quartet setting. In 2009, she became the first Israeli to headline at The Village Vanguard, the setting for the most hallowed live recordings in jazz history; the occasion yielded the 2010 release Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard, which captured Anat leading a hard-swinging band with all-stars Benny Green, Peter Washington and Lewis Nash. In its review of Anat’s 2012 album as a leader – the wide-ranging Claroscuro – All About Jazz declared: “She's one of a kind.”
Anat has also recorded four acclaimed albums as part of the 3 Cohens Sextet with her brothers, saxophonist Yuval and trumpeter Avishai: 2003’s One, 2007’s Braid, 2011’s Family and 2013’s Tightrope. The 3 Cohens band has twice headlined for a week at the Village Vanguard along with playing Carnegie Hall. The three siblings were featured on the cover of the January 2012 issue of DownBeat, and in its review of Tightrope, the Financial Times marveled over the album’s “emotional sweep.”
ANAT COHEN: Luminosa
1. “Lilia” (Milton Nascimento)
2. “Putty Boy Strut” (Steven Ellison a/k/a Flying Lotus)
3. “Ima” (Anat Cohen)
4. “Bachiao” (Romero Lubambo)
5. “Cais” (Milton Nascimento & Rolando Bastos)
6. “Happy Song” (Anat Cohen)
7. “In the Spirit of Baden” (Anat Cohen)
8. “Ternura” (K-Ximbinho)
9. “Espinha de Bacalhau” (Severino Araujo)
10. “Beatriz” (Edu Lobo & Chico Buarque)
11. “The Wein Machine” (Anat Cohen)
Anat Cohen: clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone
Jason Lindner: piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, analog synthesizer; Joe Martin: bass; Daniel Freedman: drums
Gilmar Gomes: percussion (1, 2, 4, 5, 7); Romero Lubambo: guitar (4, 5, 7, 10); Gilad Hekselman: guitar (11)
Choro Aventuroso – Vitor Gonçalves: accordion; Cesar Garabini: seven-string guitar; Sergio Krakowski: Pandeiro (8, 9)
Jazz is bursting out all over this week in the Seattle area. Anat Cohen, hands down the best clarinetist in jazz, appears with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and Christian McBride and Pharoah Sanders each play at Jazz Alley.
By Paul de Barros
Seattle Times jazz critic
Three exceptionally strong jazz acts hit Seattle this week — clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen, performing with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra (SRJO); veteran saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders, with an all-star band that includes drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, guitarist Stanley Jordan and bassist Charnett Moffett; and bassist Christian McBride’s trio.
Cohen, who hails originally from Israel, has in the last few years become, hands down, the ascendant clarinetist in jazz.
Not just her beautiful, soulful sound but her architectural sense of a solo and exuberant sense of rhythm make her one of the most absorbing players — on any instrument — in the music today.
“She’s just at the top of the heap these days,” agrees SRJO co-director Michael Brockman. “She’s such a fiery, spirited player. She’s clearly a composer on the clarinet.”
For her concerts with the orchestra — Saturday in Seattle, Sunday in Kirkland — Cohen sent arrangements of “Cry Me a River,” “La Comparsa,” “Ingênuo,” and Johnny Griffin’s “Do It,” all written by her friend Oded Lev-Ari.
She will also perform her intriguing version of Fats Waller’s bubbly “Jitterbug Waltz,” written in 9/8 time and including a mind-blowing, contrary bass line.
SRJO members will contribute charts for the show, including trombonist Dave Marriott’s take on Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Wedding” and Brockman’s own arrangement of Lonnie Smith’s “And the World Weeps,” both of which Cohen has recorded on her own. Seattle pianist Jovino Santos Neto contributes his arrangements of Hermeto Pascoal’s “Bebê” and “Doce de Coco.”
Cohen is a profoundly multicultural player, who draws on Middle Eastern and Latin styles. Brockman sees that breadth as important for the SRJO, which has until now concentrated on the mainstream tradition.
"It's really the only quote unquote holy place left in jazz – period.
By Matthew Kassel
New York Observer
On any given night, one can descend the flight of creaky steps that lead down to the dark basement club of the Village Vanguard, whose green felt walls and other decorative trappings have remained unchanged for decades, and feel at once deeply connected to the city and completely removed from it.
It has been called the “Camelot of jazz rooms,” the “Carnegie Hall of Cool” and the “prototypical Village bohemian club,” but regardless of analogies, the Vanguard is simply one of those hallowed New York institutions—like the Grand Central Oyster Bar or, for that matter, Grand Central itself—that seems to have always existed.
This Sunday, the Vanguard, which is the oldest jazz club in the city, turns 80. To celebrate that occasion, the pianist Jason Moran is presenting a weeklong string of concerts, running March 10-15, that attest to the club’s rich history. There will be solo piano performances, poetry readings, comedy and an evening devoted to the music of Thelonious Monk, among other things.
“There’s no other place on the planet where so many greats played for so many years, and that’s one of those statements that seems like hyperbole, but it’s not,” said Loren Schoenberg, the artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. “It’s really the only quote unquote holy place left in jazz—period.”
The Vanguard, the Zelig of New York nightclubs, has borne witness to some of the greatest performers in the history of American entertainment. Opened in 1935 by Max Gordon, a Lithuanian immigrant and impresario, it originally operated in the tradition of a Viennese cabaret and poetry house, featuring the likes of Maxwell Bodenheim and Joe Gould, described by Vanity Fair as “notorious bohemian poet-alcoholics.”
Those who have never been can look forward not only to its authentic feel but also its distinct, wedge-shaped room—and its acoustics, which musicians and listeners in the know say can’t be beat. The clarinetist Anat Cohen, who has recorded a live album there, described the room’s sound as “eternal.”
“You have a week to get used to the sound, and every day it builds on what you did the first day, which really helps to develop a song,” Ms. Cohen said. “The songs take the shape of the room, and the sound of the instruments—it’s so natural, it makes the music just grow. You can let the music become what it wants to be.”