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Review: Anat Cohen, 'Luminosa'

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Jazz musicians don't get much more global than Anat Cohen, an Israeli who's known for playing Brazilian improvisation in the United States. She plays an instrument that's no longer common in jazz, the clarinet. Michelle Mercer has this review of Cohen's new album, "Luminosa."

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAT COHEN SONG, "LILIA")

MICHELLE MERCER, BYLINE: The last time the clarinet was popular in jazz, fans still danced to the music, and they were hailing Benny Goodman for blowing a mean licorice stick with his swing band. But over the past decade or so, the Israeli musician Anat Cohen has been working to make the clarinet relevant and cool again in jazz.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAT COHEN SONG, "LILIA")

MERCER: With her new CD, "Luminosa," Cohen integrates her many musical influences into a unique brand of Brazilian-tinged improvisation. Here on her arrangement of singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento's "Lilia," a conversational rhythm section gives her clarinet the space to conjure Nascimento's famous falsetto, to match the expressive shades of his voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAT COHEN SONG, "LILIA")

MERCER: Even on Cohen's more mainstream jazz tunes, you never have to listen too hard to find a Brazilian influence.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAT COHEN SONG, "IMA")

MERCER: She wrote this ballad, "Ima," for her mother. And if its melody suggests her native Israel, its mood is all about Brazilian saudade, a kind of pleasurable longing for the life that could have been back home.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAT COHEN SONG, "IMA")

MERCER: The clarinet's many-octave range lends itself to caricature. It can be the black crow of instruments, darting high and low to scavenge for musical sketches. But Cohen has the courage to use the instrument's broad range for soulfulness. Here on "Bachiao," her clarinet is as warm and lyrical as any jazz saxophone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAT COHEN SONG, "BACHIAO")

MERCER: Cohen relishes the clarinet's dark beauty as much as its bright dexterity. She takes the instrument seriously enough to enlist it for both song and dance. On "Luminosa," Anat Cohen creates an ideal role for her clarinet, and the instrument shines with the dignity and joy it deserves.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAT COHEN SONG, "BACHIAO")

BLOCK: We've been hearing about the latest release from Anat Cohen. It's called "Luminosa." Michelle Mercer is the author of "Footprints: The Life And Work Of Wayne Shorter." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.