Israeli jazz musician Anat Cohen engages with students
By Jessica Krug, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, April 22, 2010
Israeli clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen’s interactions with students during her residency at the Hopkins Center on Tuesday and Wednesday showcased the kind of stamina and spirit that would have been necessary during her tenure in the Israeli Air Force Band over a decade ago. According to director of Hop programming Margaret Lawrence, the Tel Aviv native is visiting Dartmouth to complete a three-day residency planned in conjunction with the music department. Her residency concludes tonight, capped by a concert with the Anat Cohen Quartet in Spaulding Auditorium.
Since her arrival in Hanover on Tuesday, Cohen has participated in a series of engagements including a master class, visits to student performance group rehearsals and several outreach programs with Dartmouth Hillel and the East Wheelock Cluster. Lawrence emphasized Cohen’s talent and eagerness to work with students as the driving factors behind bringing her to the Upper Valley.
“She’s truly at home with students,” Lawrence said in an interview with the Dartmouth. “She’s ebullient and exciting.”
Cohen’s enthusiasm for working with students was evident during Tuesday afternoon’s master class. Although she arrived just hours after a long flight, Cohen’s energy endured and even increased as she coached student performers of both jazz and classical music.
“The goal is to feel [the music], but it has to go through the brain first,” Cohen said at the end of the class. “It’s OK to think. But then feel it and make other people feel it.”
Cohen’s comments during the master class often harkened back to this understanding of music as a means of communication — a sentiment that the performer echoed in an interview with The Dartmouth.
“Music is an international language,” she said. “I can communicate with people around the world without a certain tongue.”
This sense of connection with other people and cultures is reflected in the repertoire Cohen will bring to the stage this evening. The press release for the performance cites among her skills a proficiency in “modern and traditional jazz, classical music, Brazilian choro, Argentine tango and an expansive timeline of Afro-Cuban styles.”
Despite her experimentation with this vast collection of styles, Cohen said she still places great value on simple skills, stressing the importance of scales and other basic abilities.
“As musicians, we just want to have as much vocabulary to choose from when we play,” she said during the class.
According to Cohen, tonight’s concert will feature a mix of pieces, some of which are tracks on her new album released last week, “Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard.”
Joining Cohen on stage will be her quartet, with Jason Lindner on piano, Omer Avital on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums, according to the Hop’s program notes. The quartet’s interactions, according to Lawrence, will feature an inspired musical dialogue with the musicians feeding off of their colleagues’ play.
“Think of it like really interesting people having a conversation on stage,” she said.
If Cohen’s intimate performance at 13 East Wheelock on Tuesday — arranged in conjunction with philosophy professor and East Wheelock cluster faculty associate Susan Brison — provided any indication, that conversation will surely engage audience members this evening.
Tuesday’s concert allowed students more intimate contact with an artist that, according to Lawrence, is “zooming to the top of the jazz world.”
Dartmouth music professor Fred Haas served as the accompanist for the evening, which occurred before the arrival of the other members of Cohen’s quartet. The vibrant exchange between his part on piano — and later tenor sax — and Cohen’s contributions on clarinet inspired frequent applause and signs of appreciation from guests between phrases.
“Her technique is at the level where, when the music comes to her head, she plays it,” Lawrence said. “There’s no threshold between ideas and playing.”
Holding her clarinet horizontal as if it were a trumpet, Cohen clearly conveyed her emotions through the notes that emerged, making such expression possible even with her eyes closed and the clarinet obstructing part of her face.
“Mean what you say, because otherwise what’s the point?” she told the students at her master class.
This intensity and purity of intent holds the promise of an engaging and moving experience for performers and audience members alike. The Anat Cohen Quartet will play at 7 p.m. tonight in Spaulding Auditorium, with a post-performance discussion immediately following.