By Joe Tangari | Published June 2018
Anat Cohen and Fred Hersch come from different generations and parts of the world (Tel Aviv and Cincinnati, respectively), but they have much in common, nonetheless. Both are hugely prolific, slipping easily between leadership and support roles in a dizzying array of projects. More importantly, though, neither Cohen nor Hersch ever has settled into one approach.
It’s that ongoing search for new modes most clearly uniting the performers, and this also is what shines through on their first duo recording. For an appreciative audience at the 2016 Healdsburg Jazz Festival in California, the pair hops between styles on a whim, reflecting how widely each has traveled musically.
Hersch revels in abrupt shifts of tone and style, varying his approach constantly. He careens from impressionistic mats of sound to bouncing swing and passages somewhat reminiscent of Lennie Tristano’s 1940s free-form experiments. For her part, Cohen is game, matching his left turns with melodic wit.
The two are so thoroughly together during “Lee’s Dream” that Hersch’s piano almost gives the impression that a second clarinet is harmonizing with Cohen’s. At other times, they deliberately set contrasting approaches.
Drawing from such a big grab bag allows the duo to maintain a dreamlike atmosphere, though it also can make it tough to follow the thread of certain pieces—where “Child’s Dream” floats beautifully over varied landscapes, “Jitterbug Waltz” feels more like it’s bouncing from one place to another without a map. All told, though, it’s a fine, creative set from minds more alike than a glance at their discographies might suggest.
Live In Healdsburg: A Lark; Child’s Song; The Purple Piece; Isfahan; Lee’s Dream; The Peacocks; Jitterbug Waltz; Mood Indigo (Encore). (61:32)
Personnel: Anat Cohen, clarinet; Fred Hersch, piano.