When clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen is described in performance, “joy” is often the attribute mentioned. This Berklee College of Music graduate’s lyrical virtuosity and her habit of dancing, shouting out encouragement to band members, and generally having a good time are infectious. Her many awards from DownBeat magazine, the Jazz Journalists Association, and others attest to her talents.
Cohen was born into a musical family in Tel Aviv, Israel, and played the clarinet and tenor and soprano saxophone in high school. After her obligatory service in the Israeli military, she came to Berklee, where she began to gravitate to Latin styles in jazz. “The flowing Latin rhythms opened up a whole world of groove to me and added new layers of expressivity in my jazz playing,” she said in an interview.
After Berklee, Cohen moved to New York City, where she still lives, and began her career touring with the all-woman big band the Diva Orchestra and working with Brazilian groups. She tours all over the world, playing in small clubs and large venues in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and elsewhere, and is a frequent headliner at music festivals worldwide. With her brothers, saxophonist Yuval and trumpeter Avishai, she performs as the 3 Cohens. Cohen also collaborates with one of her heroes, Cuban-American clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, who has called her “one of the greatest players ever of the clarinet.”
In 2005, Cohen started her own label, Anzic Records. Her many albums have ranged from Latin-influenced music to covers of the classics. Two of her albums, Claroscurora in 2012 and Luminosa in 2015, show Brazilian and other Latin influences as well as a global sensibility.
For Cohen, performing live is the real thrill: “The music takes off…and the musicians and the audience get caught up in the same musical moment and are really feeling it. That's the best reward of this whole journey.”