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Concert Reviews

Anat Cohen Quartet – Israeli Jazz Showcase at The Rex in Toronto

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Anat Cohen Quartet

From NYC by way of Israel, the Anat Cohen Quartet, integrated by Anat Cohen on clarinet and saxophone, Aaron Goldberg on piano, Vicente Archer on bass and Daniel Freedman on drums, played at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar in Toronto on March 18, 2015 as part of the second annual Israeli Jazz Showcase presented by the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, showcasing her new CD “Luminosa,” with its Brazilian inspiration, and other music from her extensive discography.

Israeli-born clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen was voted Clarinetist of the Year eight years in a row by the Jazz Journalists Association. She has topped the clarinet category in both the critics and readers polls in DownBeat magazine every year since 2011, and was DownBeat’s Rising Star Jazz Artist of the Year in 2010.

Anat Cohen grew up in Tel Aviv in a musical family and began playing clarinet at age 12. She attended the Tel Aviv School for the Arts, but her love for jazz began when she played clarinet in a Dixieland band at the Jaffa Music Conservatory. At 16, she joined the school’s big band and took up tenor saxophone. That year she also entered the Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts, where she majored in jazz. After graduation, she played tenor sax in the Israeli Air Force band.

A scholarship brought her to the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1996. After graduating from Berklee in 1999, Anat Cohen moved to New York and spent the next decade touring with an all-woman big band, the Diva Jazz Orchestra. She also worked in Brazilian groups like the Choro Ensemble and Duduka Da Fonseca’s Samba Jazz Quintet, and performed the music of Louis Armstrong with David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band.

Her credits as a band leader include serving as music director of the Newport Jazz Festival Now 60! all-star band, which toured the country for the festival’s 60th anniversary in 2014.

More about Anat Cohen on: anatcohen.com
Photos by: Atael Weissman

Atael Weissman’s main occupation is as an engineering consultant. Born, raised and educated in one of the former Soviet Union republics, which is now Latvia. He lived in Israel and now in Canada, for the last 28 years. Photography and jazz music have been his main hobbies for many years -perfect combination.

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Concert Reviews

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

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On Thursday, October 13, 2022, representing two generations of Cuban Piano Masters, Hilario Durán and David Virelles got together at Koerner Hall, one of the most magnificent concert venues in Toronto. They were celebrating the release (in Canada) of their new recording Front Street Duets (Alma Records), a project they started working on at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto
Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Both artists were extremely happy of releasing their duet album after these past two years of the unimaginable worldwide health crisis. They were also excited to be in Toronto, and for being able to accommodate their busy schedules to perform their music in front of a very enthusiastic audience. Durán and Virelles expressed their utmost respect and admiration for each other. David from an early age considered Hilario as one of his musical heroes, a musical giant and influential figure in Cuba, in Canada and abroad. Hilario considers David as one of the most important Cuban pianist of his generation, a big star shining globally, from the highly competitive musical scene in New York.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

The concert got started started with Epistrophy, the first tune copyrighted by Thelonious Monk, followed by Sophisticated Lady / In A Sentimental Mood, two compositions by Duke Ellington. Next, Durán and Virelles performed four tunes from their new album: 1. Danza Lucumí, (beautifully arranged by Virelles), a song written by Alejandro García Caturla, a Cuban composer who together with Amadeo Roldán, are considered the leaders of Afro-cubanismo, a nationalist musical trend that incorporates Afro-Cuban songs, rhythms, and dances. 2. Challenge, a new composition by Durán. 3. La Malanga (also arranged by Virelles), a composition by Calixto Varona, one of the most important composers from Santiago de Cuba from the XIX century. 4. Guajira For Two Pianos, the first track on the album Front Street Duet, a fiery composition written by Durán.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

The first set came to an end with Airegin (an anadrome of Nigeria), a jazz standard composed by American saxophonist Sonny Rollins in 1954.

The second part of the concert started with a solo performance by David Virelles, Canción Estudio, composed by José Antonio “Ñico” Rojas, a prominent Cuban composer and guitarist, considered as one of the founders of the style of Cuban song called filin. Then it was Durán’s turn for an inspired solo performance of Autumn Nocturne (a notable composition written by Russian-born Josef Myrow with Kim Gannon). Durán had previously recorded this tune on his 1999 Justin Time Records release Habana Nocturna, a superb album that feature acclaimed saxophonist, flautist and bandleader Jane Bunnett, and drummer extraordinaire Horacio “El Negro” Hernández.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Next, both pianists performed a set of four pieces written by Hilario Durán for the recording Front Street Duets. 1. David’s Tumbao, a composition dedicated to David Virelles. Durán is well known for his fiery tumbao style when he’s playing. 2. Punto Cubano #1, inspired on the genre of Cuban music known as punto guajiro or punto cubano, a poetic art with music that became popular in the western and central regions of Cuba in the 17th century and consolidated as a genre in the 18th century. 3. Santos Suárez’s Memories pays tribute to the Havana neighbourhood where Durán grew up, where he fell in love with the piano and became a musician. It brings back cherished memories involving his upbringing, his family and close friends. 4. Milonga For Cuba, a very special tribute dedicated to the people who protested in Havana last summer 2021.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

For the encore, Durán and Virelles interpreted a wonderful rendition of Body And Soul, a popular song and jazz standard written in 1930 with music by Johnny Green and lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton. Body and Soul is the track that closes the album Front Street Duets, and also brought to an end a tremendous musical night at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Photographs by Danilo Navas

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