Among the world’s top jazz musicians, there are few women instrumentalists, and even fewer Israeli women. In fact, there is only one: Anat Cohen, the best jazz clarinetist alive.
At least that’s what the readers and critics of Downbeat, the premiere jazz magazine, declared her. Downbeat‘s annual readers’ poll recently named Cohen jazz clarinetist of the year, and her album, Claroscuro, the 11th-best jazz CD of the year. Earlier in 2013, the Downbeat critics poll agreed. It was Cohen’s fourth straight year atop the two polls.
Cohen, a Tel Aviv native who lives in New York, is leading a jazz clarinet revival. While it was once the hottest instrument in jazz, the clarinet long ago fell on hard times – so much so that The New York Times recently called it “jazz’s skinny stepchild.” Cohen’s music occasionally borrows from “swing kings” like Benny Goodman, but more often derives from world music and impressionism.
And she isn’t the only musical talent in her family either. Cohen regularly performs with her musical brothers—Avishai on trumpet, Yuval on sax—in the jazz trio 3 Cohens. As testament to their good sense, neither of them even try to match her on the clarinet.