I always enjoy seeing Anat Cohen onstage. Her natural bravura and casual expertise work to form a rather irresistible sound. But it’s only occasionally that I go back to her albums. In the large they’re flecked with entertaining moments that only intermittently stack up into fully coercive statements. That changes with Luminosa, her seventh and most engaging album yet. This time out the esteemed clarinetist’s art charms with the calibrated elation we’ve come to expect from her performances.
The leader’s horn work has a way of feeling both folksy and frank – great combination. As an Israeli native living in New York, her yen for Brazilian music has proven part of a broad perspective, and the breadth of such interests has helped secure her singularity. Brazil is certainly in play on Luminosa, whose program operates in the shadow of Milton Nascimento’s music, nods to Baden Powell and gives over two tracks to the feisty action of Cohen’s new Choro Aventuroso ensemble. During the last few years her working quartet of drummer Danny Friedman, bassist Joe Martin and keyboardist Jason Lindner has generated enough unique variations on bossas and blues to be deep in their element when such duties call here as well. They couldn’t sound more connected.
The lyricism of Nascimento’s work inspires Cohen’s crew to new heights. This is an album devoted to delicacy, even when the music takes on a groomed turbulence. The interplay between the clarinetist and guitarist Romero Lubambo during “Bachiao,” the grace that gives “Cais” its floating feel, even the way the band addresses its romping beats on the surprisingly apropos Flying Lotus cover – there’s just the right amount of weight put on these pieces. Their dazzling attention to detail (check the frenzy of “Espinha De Bacalhau”) is their badge of victory, and heard in full flower the program allows Cohen to show the daring side of her personality while underscoring just how deep a music-maker she’s become. A totally coercive statement.