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Anat Cohen & Oded Lev-Ari on a Grammy Nod, and Their Role in an Israeli Jazz Renaissance

Anat Cohen and Oded Lev-Ari sat in the audience at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles last Sunday afternoon, holding their breath. 

Their most recent release — Triple Helix, featuring the Anat Cohen Tentet — was up for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album at the 62nd Grammy Awards.


For Cohen, an acclaimed clarinetist, and Lev-Ari, an accomplished composer, Triple Helix is just the latest in a long list of collaborations — their 17th recording project (by my count) together since launching Anzic Records in 2007. 

It also marks Cohen’s third Grammy nomination, though in this case, the third time wouldn’t be the charm. The award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album went instead to trumpeter Brian Lynch for The Omni-American Book Club (Hollistic MusicWorks).

But Cohen and Lev-Ari, prominent Israeli jazz artists who met at the now-legendary Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts, aren’t the type to get hung up over disappointments. During their conversation on The Checkout, they talked about their early experiences in Tel Aviv and the considerable wave of gifted young Israeli jazz musicians to which they now belong. “I don’t think of myself as someone paving the way,” says Cohen, “but I’m part of a movement.”

Cohen, who is presently on The Jazz Cruise as a member of Artemis, attributes some of her success to a handful of Israeli improvisers who preceded her arrival in New York City. Among them are bassist Avishai Cohen (who shares a name with her brother, a trumpeter); guitarist Amos Hoffman; and perhaps most notably bassist Omer Avital, who recently launched Wilson Live— a recording studio, performance space and rehearsal room in in Bushwick, Brooklyn. (I haven’t been yet, but I hear it’s one of the best late-night jazz hangs happening right now.)

The Anat Cohen Tentet performs at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles on April 19, sharing an L.A. Philharmonic concert program with the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Details here.

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.