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Anat Cohen/Fred Hersch: Live In Healdsburg

Dan Bilawsky By

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When you think of these two lauded artists, duo encounters aren't the first thing likely to come to mind. Pianist Fred Hersch spends most of his time toggling between solo and trio work, and it's almost impossible to keep up with the size and/or scope of clarinetist Anat Cohen's varied pursuits. But that's not to say that the art of the pas de deux doesn't figure into their respective paths. Cohen paired up with guitarist Marcello Gonçalves for Outra Coisa -The Music Of Moacir Santos (Anzic Records, 2017), which received a Grammy nomination, and Hersch's sizeable discography is dotted with duo dates placing him in contact with artists as different as vocalist Nancy King and clarinetist Nico Gori. The pianist also spends a spring week each year exploring the duo format on the stage of New York's Jazz Standard. His partners there, changing nightly, have included vocalists Kate McGarry and Jo Lawry, saxophonists Steve Wilson and Chris Potter, vibraphonist Stefon Harris...and clarinetist Anat Cohen.

This live date comes from a performance on the other coast—at the 2016 Healdsburg Jazz Festival in California—but the location is largely irrelevant. It's the sensitivity, responsiveness, and fluidity of expression that really matter. Cohen and Hersch both have serious technique, huge range, and incredible ears, so the success of this encounter should come as no surprise to anybody familiar with their work. And those new to these two need only take a look at the first couple of tracks on this album to understand the depth of their artistry, both as individuals and in cooperation. Hersch's "A Lark" welcomes with a conjuring of daybreak and a dainty dalliance, but the music isn't all quaint and quiet. Telepathic weaves and soaring declamations also figure into this expressive opener. Then comes his "Child's Song," opening on a pianistic portrait of innocence before settling into a calm current and tapping into youth's curious nature. Control in dynamics and artful searching skills are but two of the many aspects that impress over the course of this number.

The six performances that follow offer manifold bounties and surprises. Cohen's "Purple Piece" proves more fluently expressive and pliable here than on the version found on Poetica (Anzic Records, 2007), Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan" takes on a slyer-than-usual gait and a sportive countenance, and "Lee's Dream" rightly conjures thoughts of honoree Lee Konitz, both in a head reminiscent of the Tristano-Konitz partnership and through the adventurous subtext. Then there's a take on "The Peacocks" that's as appropriately haunting and captivating as any starry trip through this Jimmy Rowles classic, a "Jitterbug Waltz" playing on rubato expressions before adopting a more joyous stance, and a "Mood Indigo" closer that's a pure Ellingtonian daydream. If you're looking for the definition of musical chemistry and artistic telepathy, look no further: Live In Healdsburg is most certainly it.

Track Listing: A Lark; Child's Song; The Purple Piece; Isfahan; Lee's Dream; The Peacocks; Jitterbug Waltz; Mood Indigo.

Personnel: Anat Cohen: clarinet; Fred Hersch: piano.

Title: Live In Healdsburg | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Anzic Records

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