Anat Cohen: A breath of fresh air on clarinet

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Anat Cohen

Clarinetist Anat Cohen performs during the 2013 Hyde Park Jazz Festival at the Rockefeller Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune / September 27, 2013)

At the core of all this music is Cohen's signature sound, an uncommonly warm, glowing timbre that's not easily achieved on an instrument as recalcitrant as the clarinet. Then, too, there's the intensely melodic quality of Cohen's playing, which she credits, in part, to her heritage.

Listen, she says, to "the Jewish cantor – you take a melody, you have a voice, a very clear voice, with a very strong expression, and (melodic) ornaments are very personal, and that kind of sound … I think it may be engraved in my DNA." As it was in the identities of Goodman and Shaw.

"Or maybe it's something I learned," adds Cohen. "But those (cantorial) melodies I was always attracted to – how to take a melody and express it in the best way I can.

"Before I think of improvisation, the melody is important. That's an influence that comes from Jewish heritage. Of course, people have it in other cultures: flamenco, gypsy music, they have their own version of the same thing."

All those influences, and others, somehow come together in Cohen's work, often to magical effect.

The Anat Cohen Quartet performs her "Claroscuro" music at 2 p.m. Sunday at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.; $35 general; $5 students; master class at 4 p.m.; 773-702-2787 or

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

Crescent City trumpeter Irvin Mayfield will lead his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra in concert – with guests Allen Toussaint, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and singers Kurt Elling and Haley Reinhart – at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.; $53.50 to $153.50;

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to

Twitter @howardreich

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