Jazz is bursting out all over this week in the Seattle area. Anat Cohen, hands down the best clarinetist in jazz, appears with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and Christian McBride and Pharoah Sanders each play at Jazz Alley.
Three exceptionally strong jazz acts hit Seattle this week — clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen, performing with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra (SRJO); veteran saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders, with an all-star band that includes drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, guitarist Stanley Jordan and bassist Charnett Moffett; and bassist Christian McBride’s trio.
Cohen, who hails originally from Israel, has in the last few years become, hands down, the ascendant clarinetist in jazz.
Not just her beautiful, soulful sound but her architectural sense of a solo and exuberant sense of rhythm make her one of the most absorbing players — on any instrument — in the music today.
Anat Cohen with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, at Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $15-$47 (206-523-6159 or srjo.org); 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland; $15-$47 (425-828-0422 or kpcenter.org); 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at Temple Beth Am, 2632 N.E. 80th St. Seattle; free (206-525-0915 or templebetham.org).
Pharaoh Sanders, with Nettwork
7:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 19-22, plus 9:30 p.m. sets Friday-Saturday, Feb. 20-21, at Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; $32.50 (206-441-9729 or jazzalley.com).
Christian McBride Trio
7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, Feb. 24-25, at Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; $28.50 (206-441-9729 or jazzalley.com).
“She’s just at the top of the heap these days,” agrees SRJO co-director Michael Brockman. “She’s such a fiery, spirited player. She’s clearly a composer on the clarinet.”
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For her concerts with the orchestra — Saturday in Seattle, Sunday in Kirkland — Cohen sent arrangements of “Cry Me a River,” “La Comparsa,” “Ingênuo,” and Johnny Griffin’s “Do It,” all written by her friend Oded Lev-Ari.
She will also perform her intriguing version of Fats Waller’s bubbly “Jitterbug Waltz,” written in 9/8 time and including a mind-blowing, contrary bass line.
SRJO members will contribute charts for the show, including trombonist Dave Marriott’s take on Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Wedding” and Brockman’s own arrangement of Lonnie Smith’s “And the World Weeps,” both of which Cohen has recorded on her own. Seattle pianist Jovino Santos Neto contributes his arrangements of Hermeto Pascoal’s “Bebê” and “Doce de Coco.”
Cohen is a profoundly multicultural player, who draws on Middle Eastern and Latin styles. Brockman sees that breadth as important for the SRJO, which has until now concentrated on the mainstream tradition.
“It’s time for our audiences to come along with us and explore a wider swath of large ensemble jazz that comes from all parts of the world,” says Brockman.
In addition to her shows, Cohen will do an onstage interview Sunday, Feb. 22, at Temple Beth Am.
Over at Jazz Alley, you can’t go wrong with Pharaoh Sanders, who came to the fore as an acolyte of John Coltrane during the latter’s extreme avant-garde phase, but over the years settled into an uplifting, North African-influenced spiritual groove. Sanders’ sidemen have occasionally failed him in Seattle, but with guitar wizard Jordan on hand — he’s the guy who plucks the instrument orchestrally, with two hands, as if it were a little piano — plus the locomotive Watts and Moffett — who together call themselves Nettwork — this is a sure thing.
Ditto for the muscular McBride, who comes in many guises, but who appears here with his acoustic trio: Christians Sands (piano) and Ulysses Owens (drums). McBride is not only the most accomplished bassist in jazz, he’s a larger-than-life personality, currently being put to good use when he hosts the new National Public Radio show, “Jazz Night in America.”