Performance Friday, February 15, 2013 | 9:30 PM

3 Cohens Sextet: Anat, Avishai, and Yuval

Zankel Hall
Clarinet and tenor saxophonist Anat Cohen, along with her brothers trumpeter Avishai and soprano saxophonist Yuval, lovingly present their infectious originals and joyful New Orleans and post-bop standards.

This concert is part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall.


  • Anat Cohen, Clarinet and Tenor Saxophone
  • Avishai Cohen, Trumpet
  • Yuval Cohen, Soprano Saxophone
    Aaron Goldberg, Piano
    Omer Avital, Bass
    Jonathan Blake, Drums


  • 3 Cohens

    The best jazz groups are made up of kindred spirits, but the rare family band has something more-an intuitive feel for each other that goes beyond words and gestures to a kind of bred-in-the-bone telepathy. The 3 Cohens are that sort of uncommon collective, a trio of siblings from Tel Aviv, Israel, whose sense of improvisational interplay is both uncannily fluent and wonderfully, infectiously warm. Along with performing on stages the world over, the 3 Cohens have three studio albums to their credit, the most recent, Family, underscoring the fact that even with the individual careers each of the Cohens pursue to increasing international success, there is something special about the music the three make together.

    "We can talk without talking," says Anat, the middle child. "Often, we don't even have to look at each other onstage. We have such history together that we feel each other through the music."

    Yuval, Anat, and Avishai Cohen grew up in Tel Aviv under the same roof and in the same schools, with the common environment helping to shape close musical tastes, approaches, and ideas. Through the World Scholarship Tour, each of the Cohens received the means to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where they expanded their musical horizons. Post-graduation, the trio formed a sextet and performed their original music at the Lodz Jazz Festival in Poland. Since then, the 3 Cohens Sextet has ranged from acclaimed appearances at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival, Caesarea Jazz Party, and Givatayim Jazz Festival in Israel to performances at the Tudo é Jazz Festival in Brazil, and the JVC and Portland jazz festivals in the US. The 3 Cohens have also played top clubs in France, Italy, and Australia, as well as the famed Village Vanguard in New York, where they performed a week-long residency in 2009.

    When not working together, each of the Cohens excel individually. Yuval, the eldest, released his sophomore album, Song Without Words, with pianist Shai Maestro. He recently won Israel's prestigious Landau Award for his achievements in jazz. In 2011, Anat earned her fifth straight Clarinetist of the Year honor at the Jazz Journalist Association Awards, and she won the 2011 DownBeat Critics Poll as Clarinetist of the Year. A resident of New York City, Anat has toured the world with her quartet, playing the Newport, Umbria, SFJAZZ, and North Sea jazz festivals, as well as the Village Vanguard, where she recorded her fifth album, the live Clarinetwork, with rhythm mates Benny Green, Peter Washington, and Lewis Nash. Avishai, the youngest Cohen and also a resident of New York, played his own set at the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival, and he also tours widely with the SFJAZZ Collective. The trumpeter has released several recordings, including 2010's lauded Introducing Triveni with bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits. He was also a Rising Star finalist in the 2011 DownBeat Critic's Poll (Jazz Artist and Trumpet categories).

    Coming back to the 3 Cohens after their individual experiences is a welcome thing for the trio of musicians. Yuval points to how much fun it is for the siblings to play together, simply "because we know each other so well and respect each other so much." For Avishai, the family band "is probably closest to my heart," he says. "You get to create music with incredible musicians whom you also know and love unconditionally."

    The leadership role in the 3 Cohens "constantly shifts, with each us of taking turns as leaders, depending on the tune and situation," explains Anat. "We're democratic about things, so there is a moment for one to shine and the others to support. Because Yuval is the oldest, it was natural for him to be the leading force early on, of course, and we were comfortable following him. Now that we're adults with our own lives and careers, we each bring our own influences, experience, and confidence to the group. It's an ongoing process to say what we want to say as individuals and still incorporate repertoire into the group that we all feel attuned to. But we work at it. It's a journey."

    When the Cohens hang out with each other off the bandstand, "we are 100% siblings, with all that implies," says Anat, with a laugh. "But we have gotten better over the years at looking beyond our sibling relationships to treat each other as artists-whether that's not being too familial in rehearsal or just not cracking each other up onstage too much. I do think people can hear the love we have for each other, because it comes through in the music. We share so much. To me, the sounds of the trumpet and the soprano saxophone are really the sounds of my brothers, just as the sound of the clarinet for them is me. To keep sharing our music onstage and in the studio is a gift."

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3 Cohens
Courtesy of Anzic Records
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Bob Golden on the 3 Cohens

The phenomenon of musical dynasties in jazz has mainly occurred during its modern eras, with the most significant being the Jones Brothers of Detroit, Philadelphia's Heath Brothers, and the continually ubiquitous Marsalis clan from New Orleans. The fourth and newest such dynastic collective are identical to their predecessors as leading-edge, world-class jazz artists who frequently record and concertize with both their own groups and as equally in-demand guest soloists with other important ensembles. The 3 Cohens, however, differ from their precursors in that they are the only family union with a major female jazz star, and, unlike their antecedents who came from recognized jazz epicenters in the US, hail from Tel Aviv—a city as removed, both geographically and culturally, from those famed metropolitan music incubators half a world away.

All 3 Cohens are notably prolific composers, arrangers, and producers. Along with their sister Anat, who is a prominent tenor saxophonist and currently regarded as one of the world's premier jazz clarinetists, the two Cohen brothers—trumpeter Avishai and soprano saxophone master Yuval—have appeared on numerous recordings with many of today's top-tier jazz artists and between them are credited with 15 solo albums. Also, on those increasingly rare occasions when their schedules permit, the 3 Cohens appear in concert and record together where they inventively blend musical influences from their homeland, well-traveled international tours, and the entire scope of American jazz past, present, and prospective into a unique, warmly joyous, and distinct sound world.

Among examples of these memorable musical events is the remarkable triad of acclaimed 3 Cohens albums created during the past decade. Their 2004 debut achievement, One, recorded in Israel with parents Bilha and David as guest vocalists, impressively announced the arrival of a new, world-class jazz family. Braid, a 2007 sequel with mostly original compositions, further solidified their rapidly burgeoning reputations. (A highlight of the disc is the one non-original, an unaccompanied three-way instrumental dialog based on the song standard "It Could Happen to You" that vividly evoked a dinner table conversation between artistic peers sharing thoughts and perceptions about a particular musical work.)

In 2011, the 3 Cohens released Family, a CD that incorporates their singular signature interpretations of Ellington and Dixieland standards, blues, and new originals. Already considered a classic, this most recent 3 Cohens recording again and indelibly represents a constantly evolving musical lineage whose members unceasingly enrich the jazz arts with their individual and combined accomplishments.

—Bob Golden is a veteran of the music industry who is currently vice president of marketing at Carlin America, a major multinational music publishing corporation.

This concert and the Shape of Jazz series are made possible by The Joyce and George Wein Foundation in memory of Joyce Wein.

Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with Absolutely Live Entertainment LLC.
This performance is part of Twentieth Century Sounds, and The Shape of Jazz.