Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sexy and Talented

You know what's it like when you're really looking forward to seeing a performer once you learn they're headed into town? That's how I felt when I found out Anat Cohen was making her debut performance at Cleveland's finest Jazz night club, Nighttown.

I've been following the works of Ms. Cohen; listening to her play clarinet on satellite radio and NPR's Jazz station. She's writes and performs the kind of compelling music that if you're in your car driving, you simply must pull off to the side of the road; turn the dial up and just listen; letting her music transport you to another place.

Anat started playing music in Tel Aviv, Israel where she grew up. Studying tenor saxophone, playing music seems to be in Anat's blood, as both her brothers, are also acclaimed horn players. After entering Thelma Yelin High School for the arts, she majored in Jazz. After graduation, she played tenor saxophone in the Israeli Air Force Band. She went on to study at the acclaimed Berklee Music School in Boston; exposing her to music from around the world. It was at Berklee that her teachers encouraged her to play the clarinet.

As I sat with my friends last night at Nighttown; enjoying a nice dinner and bottle of wine, a woman with long, silky tendrils of rich, dark brown hair; framing her expressive, deep brown eyes, and olive skin asked if she could sit down at the open seat at our table. She was wearing all black, except for a very tiny diamond nose ring. She emanated that certain je ne sais quoi; she was delightful, and beautiful. She wanted to know if we would somehow be bothered sitting so close to the mind raced, "Oh, you're you. You're her. You're Anat."

"No. We're elated; thrilled, excited to sit so close." We chimed in.

"Great." She said, speaking with a pronounced Israelian accent, as she smiled; exposing dimples and charm. "Would you mind if I sat down with your for awhile. I'm afraid I'm a bit jet-lagged; just coming back from a visit to Israel."

"Oh, of course, please do. Would you like a glass of the wine we're drinking?" We inquired.

"Aaaah. No. I need coffee." She said and at that moment, as if on cue, someone delivered her a coffee from Starbucks.

"So, what was the one thing that made you want to become a musician?" I piped up, wanting to know what made this exotic and captivating woman tick.

"Wow. The journalists don't even ask me that question." She said smiling at me.

"Hmmm...well, let me rephrase the question. Did you decide to pursue music because of something you heard, or maybe it was something you felt?" I asked again.

"I think it has more to do with the fact that my family played; it was a family practice. There was a music teacher that lived close by; friends and family would go and have music lessons and I started going also." She said, remembering while she sipped her coffee.

"Oh. Were those saxophone lessons?" I inquired.

"No. It was piano." She said.

Ms. Cohen sat with us for quite awhile and we spoke of where she lived (N.Y.C.), various musical instruments and the on-going troubles with plane travel these days. I felt as if we'd known her for awhile, but we only just met that evening.

It was time for the band to start and as expected, she and her band wowed us with every piece; playing for over 1.5 hours. I sat in my chair; eyes closed; as every pore in my body took in the music. The Nighttown crowd loved her band's performance and applauded until they came out again and played another piece.

I've had the pleasure of hearing and meeting a number of very talented, emotionally moving and down to earth musicians since living in Cleveland. Anat Cohen is at the top of my list. As a special treat to yourself, go and hear her perform, and if that's simply not possible, buy one of her four CD's, by selecting here. Trust me, you will thank me later.


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