By Tony Gieske
Anat Cohen brought her lovable quartet to Catalina’s for a swift Friday night performance, commemorating some kind of anniversary having to do with Benny Goodman and playing her clarinet with a deep, rich sound much like the King of — what’s this? — Swing.
And swing she memorably did, assisted in no small measure by the equally lovable pianist Benny Green.
Cohen is a radically unchic kind of person: She likes m-e-l-o-d-y. She plays with a-f-f-e-c-t-i-o-n. These preferences were exhibited right off the bat with two stalwart old ballads understandably eschewed by Death Cab for Cutie and other contemporaries, “Lullaby of the Leaves” and “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”
This is reassuring fare, indeed, and the full house went for it just as I did. Her improvisational prowess ebbed from time to time, though, and it was here that Green’s powerful and deeply swinging pianism came subtly to her aid.
Both players approached that sentimental bon-bon “Poor Butterfly” with telling restraint, softly and sweetly and most affectingly.
Peter Washington, bass, and Kevin Kanner, drums, fit themselves right in to the easygoing atmosphere, but when it came their turn to turn on the propulsion for “Reunion Blues,” a Milt Jackson classic, they were well up to the job.
“After You’ve Gone,” another Goodman classic, came out like a swiftly moving rapids, but you couldn’t help feeling a yen for Lionel Hampton when it was all over.
Photos by Tony Gieske. Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.