Anat Cohen: Quartetinho

The Israeli clarinetist leads four players on 11 instruments in a thoughtful set of lightly drawn classical, Latin and blues flavoured pieces


Few contemporary musicians can magic a whole out of unlikely parts as well as clarinetist Anat Cohen does on this album, which again demonstrates her long-established attraction to Latin music. Her wizardry is all the more impressive for being conjured from 11 instruments by just four players.

Cohen herself plays both the standard clarinet and its avuncular bass version on charts notable for the way their delicacy and buzzing variety disguise a secure sense of form. This ensemble of sounds could have sounded corny in the wrong combination but here the results are impressive. Cohen draws on strands including the romanticism of Dvorak (Going Home), the al fresco life of New Orleans (Louisiana) and the Latin vibrancy of South America (Boa Tarde Povo) to weave performances strong on energy and grace.

Baroquen Spirit sets out the quartet’s stall of sounds. Against a high-pitched drone, clarinet, vibes (James Shipp) and bass (Tal Mashiach) soon establish a contrapuntal atmosphere. Shipp is ready to spread the sound without sacrificing transparency. Shipp and Vitor Gonçalves on keyboard bathe the clarinet lines of Birdie with gorgeous warmth of tone, and O Boto hovers between brooding and outgoing against a bass rhythm that skips the second beat of common time.

Gonçalves switches to accordion for The Old Guitar, a wistful tune enhanced by reverberant vibes. Cohen’s arabesques above a kind of “stop” rhythm sustains the liveliness of Frevo, and Mashiach’s acoustic guitar intro to his Vivi & Zaco is joined by vibes and accordion then clarinet for a result as subtle and as natural as anything else on the album.

Cohen enters at the bridge for Going Home (the largo theme from the New World symphony) after arco bass has introduced it with vibes and accordion. To this reviewer at least there are hints of Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia, just as Canon recalls in spirit if not strict formal adherence the musical structure of that name. Refreshing stuff.

Baroquen Spirit; Palhaço; Boa Tarde Povo; Birdie; Canon; O Boto; The Old Guitar; Frevo; Louisiana; Going Home; Vivi & Zaco (56. 59)
Cohen (cl, bcl); Vitor Gonçalves (p, acc, kyb); Tal Mashiach (b, g); James Shipp (vib, pc, glock, syn). New York City, October 2021.
Anzic Records ANZ-0082