Anat Cohen, celebrated the world over for her expressive clarinet virtuosity and charismatic stage presence, presents two high-spirited new albums of Brazilian music: Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos and Rosa Dos Ventos. Both albums were recorded in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia as close collaborations with native musicians - Outra Coisa with Marcello Gonçalves (who plays the 7-string guitar) and Rosa Dos Ventos with Trio Brasileiro: Dudu Maia (bandolim, the Brazilian mandolin), Douglas Lora (7-string guitar) and Alexandre Lora (percussion, including the pandeiro, a Brazilian frame drum). Melodically and rhythmically irresistible, both albums will be released by Anzic Records on April 28, 2017.
Anat - born and raised in a musical family in Tel Aviv but a resident of New York City since 1999 - has been declared Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association every year since 2007. She has also been named the top clarinetist in both the readers and critics polls in DownBeat Magazine, the jazz bible, for multiple years running. The Chicago Tribune summed up Anat's appeal this way: "The lyric beauty of her tone, easy fluidity of her technique and extroverted manner of her delivery make this music accessible to all." Since she first visited the country in 2000, Brazil has become a home away from home for Anat, a frequent destination for her to explore in depth music that has captured her heart. Several of her previous seven albums as a leader feature Brazilian classics and original pieces she composed under the influence of Brazilian music.
Marcello Gonçalves says:"Anat has such a great passion for Brazil. She speaks Portuguese far better than I speak English. More than that, Anat can play Brazilian music better than many Brazilian musicians. Her accent is perfect." About her affection for the country and its music, Anat says: "Brazilian music, whether it's choro or samba or the sounds of the northeast, makes me feel alive and full of emotions. In many places around the world, there's a strict divide between those who play and those who listen. When I first went to Brazil, I immediately felt that music there doesn't just belong to musicians but to everyone, as part of their daily lives. Some people play, some sing, some dance, some clap along. It's part of the social fabric. I like that."
Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos
Moacir Santos (1926-2006) was an innovative Brazilian composer and inspirational educator for the bossa-nova generation (his students including Baden Powell and Sérgio Mendes, among many others). Critic Ben Ratliff ranked Santos' 1965 LP Coisas - the title translating as "Things" - at No. 72 in a list of the 100 most important albums in his book The New York Times Essential Library: Jazz. He called the record "one of the great accomplishments in modern Brazilian music... It mixes marches, Afro-Brazilian rhythms, strong melodies, jazz syncopation and bracing harmony of an Ellington-like concision; it gestures at different kinds of Brazilian regional music but is overall a highly original work." With added lyrics, Santos' "Coisa No. 5" became the hit "Nanã" recorded by some 100 artists, including jazz covers by Herbie Hancock and Kenny Burrell. Wynton Marsalis, who joined Santos on his final album, pointed out that Santos mingled Brazil's birthrights from Europe and Africa "with the liberty of jazz."
For Outra Coisa, Gonçalves arranged a dozen Santos pieces from their large-ensemble scores into intimate, lyrical duets, with Anat often playing in the rich lower register of her instrument and Gonçalves channeling the orchestral textures of the originals into his 7-string guitar (which has an extra bass string). "The music of Santos has always been such a treasure," says Gonçalves, a longtime member of Trio Madeira Brasil. "But it wasn't until I started going closely through his scores that I realized how natural they feel on guitar, as if they had been composed for the instrument. Also, the clarinet was Santos' own first instrument, so it seemed doubly right with Anat.
"Moacir Santos' music has this lightness and freedom," Gonçalves adds. "Anat can really dance and sing with it - just listen to her beautifully warm sound and playful phrasing in 'Nanã' and 'Coisa No. 1.' I had spent a year working on this repertoire. When Anat visited Brazil, I proposed that we get together so I could show her my arrangements. She suggested meeting directly at a recording studio. When we started playing, Anat - who has known me for many years - said: 'I've never seen you so happy!' I responded, 'Yes, I never have been this happy!' So our album documents two spontaneously happy days in the studio."
About the sessions, Anat recalls: "Marcello and I recorded in Rio right alongside each other and without headphones, letting the music sound as natural as possible in the room acoustically. I have a special affinity for the combination of clarinet and 7-string guitar - the instruments can exchange the roles of soloist and accompanist easily. With Marcello's mastery of the guitar, he can function as the harmonic instrument, the bass player and the soloist sometimes all at once. It often feels as if I'm playing with a full orchestra with Marcello, and I just love his sound and sense of swing.
"As far as Marcello's arrangements, they felt so wonderful that I fell in love with the music immediately," Anat adds. "The creations of Moacir Santos have a sense of calm beauty, along with these rooted grooves, which he called 'mojo.' His music combines Afro-Brazilian accents with North American influences, and the melodies are eternal. One of my favorites is 'Paraíso,' which is such a ravishing, haunting tune. Each of these songs is a little world of its own - I'm discovering more in them all the time."
Rosa Dos Ventos
Rosa Dos Ventos ("Wind Rose," or weathervane) continues Anat's kindred-spirit collaboration with Trio Brasileiro, with the album's title hinting at the way fresh inspirations pass into their music like a breeze. They previously paired up for the 2015 Anzic album Alegria da Casa. In the liner essay to that first album, Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto wrote about how the sound of these musicians playing together transports him not to a concert hall but "to a happy gathering of friends in botequim, or corner bar in a small Brazilian town, where the music flows spontaneously and everyone takes part in the roda, or circle of musicians."
Formed in 2011, Trio Brasileiro is dedicated to performing traditional choro music as well as their own compositions that put a contemporary spin on choro. The group comprises percussionist Alexandre Lora (whose array includes the pitched "hand pan"), Douglas Lora (a member of the award-winning Brasil Guitar Duo) and Dudu Maia, one of Brazil's finest mandolinists (who plays a special 10-string bandolim on Rosa Dos Ventos). Anat joins Maia and the Lora brothers to teach the choro style annually at Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington. Choro - the word translates as "cry" - developed in late 19th-century Rio much like its cousin jazz in New Orleans, with Brazilian musicians combining such traditional European dance forms as the polka, waltz and mazurka with African and South American rhythms. Again, like jazz, choro became a vehicle for improvisers.
"I love choro because it's the perfect mix of classical music and jazz, where it demands precision but everyone can inflect the music with their own personality and interpretation," Anat says."As a clarinetist, I can be the soloist or join in the counterpoint with the 7-string guitar. As with the style of early New Orleans jazz, choro functions on group polyphony where everyone has a role yet it's open and free-spirited, with simultaneous melodies happening. It can be groove-oriented like a party, or it can be full of saudade, of longing. It was actually choro that brought me back to the clarinet after years of concentrating on the saxophone."
For the Rosa Dos Ventos sessions, the foursome lived together for a week in Brasilia, inventing freely and recording at Maia's home studio. They built on the more traditional choro sounds of Alegria da Casa, re-imagining the music with original compositions by Anat and each member of the trio that incorporate far-flung influences, including from Spain ("Flamenco") and India ("O Ocidente Que Se Oriente") as well as the worlds of salsa ("Das Neves") and even rock (the dramatic "Rosa Dos Ventos"). There are plenty of effervescent rhythms ("Baião Da Esperança," "Ijexá") and bittersweet melodies ("Teimosa," "Pra Você, Uma Flor"), as well as sparkling virtuosity ("Choro Pesado," "Valsa Do Sul"). The arrangements are textured throughout, with Anat's lyricism a key voice whether adding beguiling touches to "Lulubia" ("Lullaby") or improvising "Sambalelê" as a virtual solo over a spare backdrop of percussion.
Anat and Trio Brasileiro unveil the music of Rosa Dos Ventos on the road in May with a tour of the U.S. and Europe, including a May 16-17 stand at the Jazz Standard in Manhattan. The clarinetist says: "Playing with Trio Brasileiro - three of the most sensitive, inventive musicians I know, along with being sweet guys - is such a joy for me. And I think you can hear that joy in the music we make together."
ANAT COHEN & MARCELLO GONÇALVES - Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos
2. Coisa No. 1
3. Outra Coisa
4. Coisa No. 6
5. Coisa No. 10
6. Nanã (Coisa No. 5)
7. Coisa No. 9
8. Mãe Iracema
All songs by Moacir Santos (except #7, by Moacir Santos/Regina Werneck)
Anat Cohen, clarinet & Marcello Gonçalves, 7-string guitar
Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves Coisa N.10 by Moacir Santos
ANAT COHEN & TRIO BRASILEIRO - Rosa Dos Ventos
1. Baião Da Esperança (Douglas Lora)
2. Pra Você, Uma Flor (Douglas Lora)
3. Das Neves (Dudu Maia)
4. Valsa Do Sul (Anat Cohen)
5. Flamenco (Alexandre Lora)
6. Rosa Dos Ventos (Douglas Lora)
7. Sambalelê(Anat Cohen)
8. Ijexá(Dudu Maia)
9. Teimosa (Anat Cohen)
10. "O Ocidente Que Se Oriente" (Alexandre Lora)
11. Choro Pesado (Douglas Lora & Dudu Maia)
12. Lulubia (Dudu Maia)
Anat Cohen, clarinet & Trio Brasileiro: Dudu Maia, bandolim; Douglas Lora, 7-string guitar; Alexandre Lora, pandeiro, hand pan, percussion
Choro Pesado - Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro
Anat Cohen tours the U.S. and Europe with Trio Brasileiro throughout May, including a May 16-17 stand at New York City's Jazz Standard:
5/3 - Seattle, WA @ Triple Door
5/4 - Portland, OR @ Old Church
5/6 - Los Angeles, CA @ Blue Whale
5/7 - Phoenix, AZ @ MIM
5/9 - Albuquerque, NM @ Outpost
5/11 - Santa Cruz, CA @ Kuumbwa
5/12 - San Jose, CA @ Cafe Stritch
5/13 & 14 - Denver, CO @ Dazzle
5/15 - Chicago, IL @ City Winery
5/16 & 17 - New York, NY @ Jazz Standard
5/19 - Nantes, France - Pannonica
5/20 - Coutances, France - Theatre Municipal
5/23 - Munich, Germany - Jazzclub Unterfahrt
5/25 - Prague, Czech Republic - Jazzdock
5/27 - Milan, Italy - Blue Note Milano