Anat Cohen, Pharaoh Sanders, Christian McBride: a jazz convergence

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.