As unlikely as it may seem, the battle-scarred land of Israel has produced a generation of world-class jazz talent. And clarinetist Anat Cohen would have to rank high on anyone’s list of Sabra jazz superstars.
The 37-year-old Tel Aviv native has repeatedly topped the DownBeat critics’ and readers’ polls on her instrument, and she’s been voted Clarinetist of the Year six years running by the Jazz Journalists Association. The JJA also voted her Multi-Reedist of the Year in 2012 for her mastery of bass clarinet and tenor and soprano saxophones, as well.
In addition to leading her own quartet — and running the Anzic record label — Cohen tours and records with her brothers, 34-year-old trumpeter Avishai and 39-year-old saxophonist Yuval, under the 3 Cohens moniker. The siblings will perform with their sextet Saturday night as part of the monthly South Florida Jazz concert series.
Growing up in Tel Aviv, the Cohen kids trained at the Jaffa Conservatory and at the Rimon and Thelma Yellin schools. Following the path blazed by Yuval, Anat and Avishai received scholarships to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and then gravitated toward the jazz hub of New York City.
In 1997, Yuval had a tumor removed from his spine, which limited use of his hands. He returned to Tel Aviv, where he’s now among the country’s foremost jazz educators. Having recovered, he relishes opportunities to perform with Anat and Avishai, both of whom live in New York.
On their 2011 recording, Family, the 3 Cohens update tunes associated with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, displaying affection for the roots of jazz while pushing into modern directions.
The same orientation is evident in their individual projects. On her 2012 recording, Claroscuro, Anat reimagines classics by Artie Shaw and Edith Piaf, as well as modern fare by Dr. Lonnie Smith and Abdullah Ibrahim.
Avishai, who won Rising Star Trumpeter honors from DownBeat critics last year, interprets avant-garde giants Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry on his 2012 trio release Triveni II. And Yuval marries modern jazz and classical influences on Song Without Words, his 2010 duo release with Israeli pianist Shai Maestro.
The 3 Cohens Sextet also features Israeli-born bassist Omer Avital, pianist Aaron Goldberg and drummer Johnathan Blake.