UPDATE: Due to inclement weather in the Northeast and the resulting flight cancellations across the region, the 3 Cohens concert scheduled for Feb. 9 has been canceled. Tickets will be refunded at the Miniaci box office.
George Wein's Newport All-Stars seemed a bit out of place among the percussive, groove-heavy lineup of San Juan's 2010 Heineken Jazz Fest. How would a bluesy, traditional jazz group fare amidst a roster of Latin-jazz superstars? And yet, when the band's clarinetist, the Israeli-born Anat Cohen, started blowing hot 'n' sweet notes into the humid night air, the largely Puertorriqueño audience stood and cheered as if she were a daughter of the Enchanted Isle.
Ovations for Cohen's virtuosity have been fairly universal. She topped December's DownBeat Readers Poll on her instrument and has a virtual lock on best clarinetist — six years running — as voted on by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Cohen's native Tel Aviv is a world removed from Puerto Rico, let alone the jazz hub of New York, where she currently resides. As unlikely as it seems, Israel has produced a generation of world-class jazz talent, including Cohen, 37, and her brothers, trumpeter Avishai, 34, and saxophonist Yuval, 39. While each pursues individual projects — Anat and Avishai from New York, Yuval from Tel Aviv — they also record and tour as the 3 Cohens. A current tour will bring their sextet to the Miniaci Performing Arts Center in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.
The 3 Cohens' third album, "Family," deftly meshes their passion for traditional jazz with undeniably modern sensibilities. With obvious affection, they update numbers by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, while also nodding to modern-jazz greats Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy. Musical prodigies from a young age, the Jaffa Conservatory-trained Cohen kids played everything from classical to swing and Dixieland.
"Louis Armstrong became a favorite of ours very early on," Anat relates, explaining that she and her brothers latched onto their parents' cassette tape of Satchmo and Ella Fitzgerald. "That time period [in jazz] is very dear for the three of us."
The Cohens are hardly mired in the past. Anat's 2012 recording, "Claroscuro," while reviving tunes associated with Edith Piaf and Artie Shaw, sounds quite modern, as she switches among clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones. Avishai's recent "Triveni II" recording delves into material by avant-gardists Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. And Yuval's 2011 "Song Without Words," a duo recording with pianist Shai Maestro, melds modern and classical influences.
Standouts at the conservatory, as well as at the Rimon and Thelma Yellin schools, the Cohen siblings each earned scholarships to Berklee College of Music in Boston, before heading to New York. Then, in 1997, Yuval had a tumor removed from his spinal cord. The operation limited motion in his hands, and he returned to Israel, where he established himself as a premier music educator. Having since recovered, he's delighted to be playing with his brother and sister whenever opportunities arise. "It's something I look forward to," he says. "Getting together three, four, five times a year — you wait for it. And it's great when it happens."
Avishai, who took Rising Star Trumpet honors in the 2012 DownBeat Critics Poll, echoes Yuval's sentiments. "Playing with your brother and sister, nothing can be like that," he says, "and that can't be anything else."
3 Cohens Sextet
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9
Where: Miniaci Performing Arts Center, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
Cost: $40, $15 for students
Contact: 954-462-0222 or SouthFloridaJazz.orgCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun