By Bobby Reed | Published October 2017
The excellent new album by the Anat Cohen Tentet is the result of a diverse, remarkably talented cast of players, composers and arrangers. Cohen—winner of the Clarinet category in the 2017 DownBeat Critics Poll—wrote or co-wrote three of the tracks here, and the musical director for the project was Oded Lev-Ari, who arranged much of the program, including a tear-jerking rendition of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye.” The centerpiece of the album is “Anat’s Doina,” a three-movement piece in which two of Cohen’s compositions bookend Lev-Ari’s arrangement of the traditional klezmer tune “Der Gasn Nigun.” Elsewhere, Cohen explores Brazilian rhythms (one of her areas of expertise) with a lively reading of Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro,” arranged for the tentet by Lev-Ari. Cohen’s clarinet work is consistently compelling throughout the program, whether she’s exploring fusion on a version of Lev-Ari’s “Trills And Thrills” (featuring a fierce electric guitar solo by Sheryl Bailey) or unleashing the toe-tapper “Oh Baby” (a swing tune that Benny Goodman recorded for Columbia in 1946). On Cohen’s arrangement of Neba Solo’s “Kenedougou Foly,” the clarinetist and her horn players engage in a wondrous dialogue, with the accompanists delivering a consistent, killer riff, and the leader responding with potent commentary. The lineup for the album includes Bailey (guitar), Rubin Kodheli (cello), Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nick Finzer (trombone), Owen Broder (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet), James Shipp (vibraphone, percussion), Vitor Gonçalves (piano, accordion), Tal Mashiach (bass) and Anthony Pinciotti (drums). Cohen’s Happy Song, her most ambitious album yet, gloriously accomplishes her goal of uniting people through music. She’ll take the tentet on the road for concerts in Chicago (Oct. 7), Decorah, Iowa (Nov. 4), Northridge, California (Nov. 30), San Francisco (Dec. 3) and Olympia, Washington (Dec. 4).