In his fascinating autobiography, Miles Davis once said that Gil Evans would call him on the phone now and then just to share a quick thoughtyou know, the kind of thing some people used to do before these random impulses were relegated to texts or Tweets. His classic example was a 3AM call where his longtime friend and collaborator rang to say "If you're ever depressed, Miles, just listen to 'Springsville,'" and just as abruptly hung up.
Anat Cohen deserves such a story as wellnot just because everyone should have such a friend in their life, but because her titular "Happy Song" is just the same kind of ray of sunshine that's worth waking someone up to share. The piece is adeptly expanded from its initial trio rendition on Luminosa (Anzic, 2015), beautifully encapsulating the spirit of this new ensemble and providing a perfect introduction to their wildly colorful debut. Not content to rest too long after a previous pair of enchanting Brazilian-themed recordings, the poly-faceted clarinetist follows up here in delightful fashion with a bigger musical palette and expanded group to match.
Cohen's catalogue has always encompassed music all around the world, and the Tentet (well, the term just sounds more fun and informal than "dectet") is a crack team of fellow New York City players who share the same love of all-encompassing groove and swing. Alongside the ever-present South American element, Happy Song visits the golden age of Hollywood with a big-band Bix Beiderbecke romp, crosses over to west Africa with the infectious rhythmic trance of "Kenedougou Foly," and shows the leader's native roots by using a klezmer piece as the loose basis for its dramatic extended centerpiece. Her fleet clarinet twines with some fuzzy guitar in the slow-burner of "Trills and Thrills," a wailing jam contributed by musical director Oded Lev-Ari. He isn't counted as one of the ten, but he's as vital in shaping the album's form as anyone else; the arrangements are wonderfully adroit in using all the players without ever feeling crowded.
Even with a couple thoughtful lulls in "Trills" and Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye," Happy Song bounces and swings with all the warmth its title promises. It shows Anat Cohen's wide-ranging mind and instrumental prowess as expansive as ever, and it's a vibrantly joyous affair indeed.
Happy Song; Valsa para Alice; Oh, Baby; Anat's Doina (A Maysé / Der Gasn Nigun / Foile-Shtick); Loro; Trills and Thrills; Goodbye; Kenedougou Foly.
Anat Cohen: clarinet; Oded Lev-Ari: musical direction; Rubin Kodheli: cello; Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Nick Finzer: trombone; Owen Broder: baritone sax, bass clarinet; James Shipp: vibraphone, percussion; Vitor Gonçalves: piano, accordion; Sheryl Bailey: guitar; Tal Mashiach: bass; Anthony Pinciotti: drums.