Saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen has been building a solid reputation as a richly-toned and capable improviser, as well as a lyrical mainstream writer, on the New York scene since relocating there from her native Israel a few years back. Her collaborative effort with brothers Avishai (the trumpeter, not the bassist) and saxophonist Yuval appeared on last year's One (under the name 3 Cohens), demonstrating a strong intuitive sense, although the simpatico with her siblings is no surprise, given they've played together since childhood.
On Place & Time Anat steps out on her own, and with a rhythm section of pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Ben Street, and drummer Jeff Ballardno strangers to each othera certain chemistry was bound to be a given as well. Still, the interplay is subtle for the most part; and while everyone is clearly on the same page, the album lacks the remarkable telepathic connection of One, although the four tracks where Avishai guests heat up a bit more.
Cohen reflects a broad range of interests, ranging from the tango treatment of Maria Teresa Vera's Cuban melody on "Viente Aos" to the more open-ended and burning swing of Gerry Mulligan's "As Catch Can" and the easy-going melody of the Loesser/McHugh standard "Say It." On tenor, Cohen is a reflection of Ben Webster, with a big tone and an attention to a song's essence. On soprano her tone avoids the often nasal quality of the instrument, and on clarinet she's equally warm.
Her approachable writing is filled with appealing melodies, and while the playing of everyone involved keeps things honest, it sometimes borders on lightweight. Fine vehicles for mainstream improvisation, but one wonders how she'd be with a little more edge. Certainly her playing suggests the possibility that she'd fit just fine in more adventurous contexts. Not that there's anything wrong with a relaxed approach that gives proper attention to the thematic content of a tune, but while her own writing covers some territory within the narrower mainstream and reflects her own multicultural concerns, it doesn't really distinguish itself.
Place & Time is a pleasant enough listen, but one gets the feeling that this is only part of the picture, a belief bolstered further by listening to the 3 Cohens disc. Still, this is an early stage in Cohen's career, and there are plenty of indications that she has potential for further growth.
Track Listing: Place & Time; The 7th of March; Viente A
Personnel: Anat Cohen: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Jason Lindner: piano; Ben Street: acoustic bass; Jeff Ballard: drums, percussion (2); Avishai Cohen: trumpet (4, 6, 7, 9).
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