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Anat Cohen's Anzic Orchestra On JazzSet

Led by Anat Cohen on clarinet, soprano and tenor, the orchestra also includes saxes and trumpets (three of each), two trombones, three cellos, guitar, bass, drums, percussion and a bus driver. Oops! Wrong list, but do note that this band bused from New York to D.C. for its first performance in a national theater.

Cohen and arranger Oded Lev-Ari opted for a cello section, rather than a string quartet plus orchestra configuration. It pays off in strengthening the middle and lower registers, not to mention the pure joy of the cellos bowing and swinging together.

Cohen has taken to Brazilian music. In fact, she and Lev-Ari just returned from Brazil and a project with Mulgrew Miller, Ron Carter and a great roster.

Anzic opens with a samba, then juxtaposes "Marie en la Playa" from Cuba with Tin Pan Alley, then pours all into her clarinet cadenza on "Cry Me a River," then creates a segue between a samba and Louis Armstrong's "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." Cohen shrugs and says she can't remember exactly where she came up with that pair. The last piece is "Oh! Baby" (or "Oy! Baby," as Oded Lev-Ari calls it) for the Benny Goodman (1909-86) centennial. You'll have to listen more than once to get it all. You will be rewarded.

Noir is the Anzic Orchestra CD from Anzic Records, and Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard is Anat Cohen's new small group album.

"Jazz With Two X Chromosomes" -- that was the headline of the Washington Post item about sax player Hailey Niswanger's performance at the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. The article praised Niswanger and noted that she "wowed judges with her original compositions and preternatural swagger."

Feet planted, knees bent, back straight, she leans in on some notes and goes up on her toes for others. She's focused. Each adjustment is productive. Born in Texas, raised in Portland, Ore., now in Boston at Berklee College of Music, Niswanger has just been selected as the new alto saxophonist in the Either/Orchestra. As leader Russ Gershon says, "She smoked her audition." Her CD is Confeddie, named for her tune for saxophonist Eddie Harris (1934-96).

Copyright 2009 WBGO

Becca Pulliam