Thursday, April 27, 2017

Anat Cohen's Brazilian Collaborations

Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves
Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos
Anzic Records

Anat Cohen and Trio Brasileiro
Rosa Dos Ventos
Anzic Records

One of the most prominent clarinetists in jazz today, the Israeli born Anat Cohen has been delving into the richness of Brazilian music for some time. Now she has two new releases of Brazilian music, recorded in recorded in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia as close collaborations with native musicians. Since Anat first visited the country in 2000, Brazil has become a home away from home for her, a frequent destination for her to explore in depth music that has captured her heart.Her previous seven albums as a leader have included Brazilian classics and original pieces she composed under the influence of Brazilian music. Marcello Gonçalves, the 7-string guitarist who collaborated with Cohen on "Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos," says about her, "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."

As indicated by its title "Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos" is devoted to the music of the innovative composer, arranger and educator who influenced countless Brazilian musicians including Baden Powell and Sergio Mendes. For this recording, Gonçalves arranged a dozen Santos pieces from their large-ensemble scores into intimate, lyrical duets, with Anat often employing the clarinet's rich lower register and Gonçalves channeling the orchestral textures of the originals into his 7-string guitar (which has an extra bass string). The two recorded besides each other and without headphones to allow the music sound as natural as possible.

There is playfulness during the opening "Amphilbious," with the two musically dancing with each other whether playing in unison of interweaving their lines and the warmth and sportive quality of Cohen's clarinet and the spirited solo from Gonçalves with Cohen comping is delightful. In contrast, "Coisa No. 1" is a beautifully played ballad with the two exchanging leads and one appreciates the tone of Gonçalves' guitar as well as his playing on this gorgeous sounding duet. "Nanã (Coisa No. 5)" is perhaps Santos' most famous composition having been recorded over 100 times, and after some almost hard guitar chords emulating the horns on the original, turns into a light-hearted duet full of lyricism warmth, and wit with Cohen's soaring phrases complimented by the nimble mix of chords and single note runs. It is followed by the lovely, wistful "Coisa No. 9," and then the two have some fascinating interplay on "Mae Iracema." The joy and camaraderie the two have for each other, Santos' music and Gonçalves' arrangements is evident throughout this stunning recording. I suspect some, like I already have, will start to explore Santo's own recordings after hearing this.

Cohen's musical encounter with Trio Brasileiro is similarly delightful. The trio was formed in 2011, and is dedicated performing traditional choro music (a music contemporaneous with ragtime) 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"), guitarist Douglas Lora and Dudu Maia, one of Brazil's finest mandolinists (who plays a special 10-string bandolim mandolin on "Rosa Dos Ventos"). Cohen expresses part of the allure of choro, "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." There are differences of course between Cohen's duets Gonçalves and the interaction she has playing with this trio, but the results are very similar in the lively recorded performances.

The playful and lively sounds here opens with "Baião Da Esperança," which is the first sample of the interplay between the Trio and Cohen with Alexandre Lora's percussion accenting her and the stringed instruments. Maia and Cohen are the focus as Douglas Lora's percussive guitar here serves as a foundation for Cohen's clarinet flourishes and Maia's dazzling mandolin runs. "Pra Você, Uma Flor," is a more pensive performance with its lyrical quality a result of the the intricate interplay of the musicians. Douglas Lora composed the first two, while Maia wrote the lively "Das Nieves," while Cohen's "Valsa Do Sul," opens with the warmth of Cohen's clarinet followed by nimble guitar and mandolin runs. Alexandre Lora's "Flamenco," evokes images of Flamenco dancers and guitars with the composer's hand percussion and the guitar of his brother, while the title track is a delightful duet by Cohen (with swoops and swirls in her playing) and Alexandre Lora.

There are also the fascinating evocation of Indian classical music with its characteristic drone on “O Ocidente Que Se Oriente,” while Maia's appealing, "Lulubia," has Cohen embellishing the simple guitar accompaniment and Maia's spare mandolin lead. Like Cohen's duets with Marcello Gonçalves, the collaboration of Cohen and Trio Brasileiro is not simply marvelously played, but also makes for captivating listening.

I received downloads of both from a publicist. Here is Anat Cohen and Marcello Gonçalves.

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