Musician Anat Cohen with her clarinet Musician Anat Cohen with her clarinet Musician Anat Cohen has been playing clarinet all her life. (Photo: Anat Cohen)

Israeli jazz musician earns Grammy noms in 2 categories

Clarinet virtuoso Anat Cohen is nominated for Best World Music Album and Best Latin Jazz Album.

We at From the Grapevine would like to let everyone know that we called it, when it came to Israeli jazz musician Anat Cohen. We met Cohen a couple years ago and were convinced that she was a musical genius. And now, she's been nominated for two Grammys. Her album "Rosa Dos Ventos" was nominated for "Best World Music Album,” and album "Outra Coisa – The Music of Moacir Santos" was nominated for “Best Latin Jazz Album.”

When we interviewed Cohen in her Williamsburg apartment, she told us that her brothers got her into the clarinet.

"They have bands and basically they needed clarinet players, so they encouraged me to pick up the clarinet. So I went with the flow," she said. "I felt that I really connected with the instrument. I got into jazz as far as playing the music of New Orleans. They had what they called the Dixieland band. Finding a spot immediately for the role of the clarinet is really crucial because clarinet has an important part in the music of New Orleans. You really get to express yourself."

People in her life often told her that the clarinet wasn't cool enough.

"Clarinet had kind of lost its popularity. I think one of [my high school] teachers said 'Listen, why don’t you bring your tenor or your brother’s [soprano] saxophone or any saxophone; just please don’t bring the clarinet,'" she said, laughing.

But Cohen, who attended Israel's conservatory at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Music Center, has found ways to make the clarinet seem new. She likes mixing genres; her Brazilian music has a distinct Dixieland flair.

"I like to call it the father of samba and the grandfather of bossa nova. You can define it as Brazilian ragtime," Cohen said. "It gives you a feeling of joy, although the word 'choro' means 'cry.' But it’s music that in a way is very casual. It was formed around a table sitting in a circle, having beers, and just playing those songs and passing it as an oral tradition. Yet when you try to play it and bring it to stage, it takes so much concentration. It’s so hard to play, because there’s so many notes."

She wasn't the only Israeli to snag a nomination. Israeli filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev directed the recent Grateful Dead documentary. The documentary was nominated for "Best Music Film."

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