With Just a Stick in her Hands | Anat Cohen Tentet @ VPAC/Saroya

Anat Cohen Tentet (VPAC/Saroya)Sometimes, I’m familiar with the artists that we see. Sometimes not. The latter is often the case when I’m selecting shows from the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB)’s season brochure. In this case, they listed a performance as the “Anat Cohen Tentet”, categorized as Jazz, with the following description:

Israeli clarinet virtuoso Anat Cohen is the charismatic female bandleader who stands out in a predominantly male environment. Cohen’s tapestry of sounds captures the jubilation of many genres, spanning modern and traditional jazz, classical music, klezmer, Brazilian choro, and Argentine tango.

I was trying to pick a program that had a few shows that might appeal to my wife, and this was clearly one of those: my wife loves modern and traditional Jazz and klezmer, and here we have one led by an Israel, and a female bandleader.

I’m pleased to say that this program was enjoyable beyond any expectations; as my wife put it, this women can do things with her clarinet and create sounds we’ve never heard before. This show came on top of two Grammy nominations (one for Outra Coisa, an album of Latin Jazz, and one for Rosa Dos Ventos). The Anat Cohen Tentet (FB) is a new group she has organized together with her music director, Oded Lev-Ari (FB). They have just put out their first album, and this is their first tour. The Tentet consists of the following musicians, in addition to Cohen on Solo Clarinet: Rubin Kodheli (FB) [Cello], Nadje Noordhuis (FB) [Trumpet & Flugelhorn], Nick Finzer (FB) [Trombone], Owen Broder (FB) [Sax & Clarinet], James Shipp (FB) [Vibraphone & Percussion], Vitor Gonçalves (FB) [Piano & Accordion], Sheryl Bailey (FB) [Guitar], Tal Mashiach (FB) [Bass] and Anthony Pinciotti (FB) [Drums].

Going into the show, I didn’t know what to expect. I like Jazz as well, but I’m less varied in my likes than my wife: She’ll go for the modern Jazz of Marsales; I’m more into the rhythmic swing or big band or New Orleans’ Dixieland. I don’t know how to describe the Tenet’s music, but it definitely wasn’t atonal or non-rhythmic. Joyful? Melodic? All I know is that I found myself enjoying it greatly. After the show, we purchased the Tentet’s new album, Happy Song, as well as one of the Grammy-nominated albums, Outra Costa. I’ve given them a listen (playing them into the 5-or-less playlist, currently at just under 400 songs), and they are quite enjoyable.

The performance consisted on one very long set, mostly of songs we learned later were from Happy Song, a brief introduction to the band, followed by a closing number and an encore.   Perhaps my one and only complaint is with the phrase “charismatic female bandleader” (in the program, described as ” infectious charisma”). Although she did exhibit some charisma with the fellow bandmates, she needs to work a bit on her interaction with the audience. As an audience member, I hope to get in a live show something I can’t get listening to an album. Let me learn your story and the Tentet’s story. Tell me about each song, and a bit more about the featured performers. But I think this is a learned skill, and the Tentet is new. This will come with more tours and more performances, I am sure.

Overall, I’m thankful for this performance. It introduced me to yet another new artist, and a new style of Jazz that I like. You often see Jazz groups fronted by trumpeters; I can only think of three (Pete Fountain, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey) led by folks on the stick.  Correction: White men on the stick. As one who champions women in all fields, it was great to see female leadership. It is something we need more of (especially given the men that have screwed things up).

The  Anat Cohen Tentet (FB) had only one performance at  the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), although there are more performances in both their International and Jazz series coming up. The Tentet is on tour, so perhaps you can catch them in your city.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre(FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

December started with Levi! (a new Sherman Brothers musical) at LA Community College Caminito Theatre (FB). That’s next on the writeup list.

This week continues with ACSAC 2017 in Orlando FL. As soon as we return, we’ve got Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB) and the Colburn Orchestra at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB). The weekend encompassing Chanukah sees us back at the Saroya  (FB) for the Klezmatics (FB). We also hope to squeeze in a performance of A Christmas Story at the Canyon Theatre Guild (FB). Of course there will also be the obligatory Christmas Day movie — who knows — perhaps it’ll be the upcoming The Greatest Showman.

Right now, early 2018 is pretty open, with only a few weekends taken by shows at the Pantages and Actors Co-Op. I did just pick up tickets for Candide at LA Opera (FB). But that will likely fill up as Chromolume announces their dates, and announcements are received on interesting shows. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018! We may also be adding a CTG subscription, given their recent announcements regarding the next season.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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