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Jazz Imports: Anat Cohen And Mayuko Katakura

This week, JazzSet features two sets from the 2007 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C.

First Set: Anat Cohen

Raised in Tel Aviv, Anat Cohen and her two brothers (Yuval and Avishai) all have careers in jazz, to the amazement of their parents. As students, they played together in the Dixieland ensemble and big band. Maybe having her brothers there helped Anat feel comfortable, or maybe she was just born to be a musician — first on clarinet and then on additional saxophones.

After she majored in jazz at Thelma Yelin High School for the Arts, Cohen spent two required years in the military and played tenor in the Israeli Air Force Band. When she came to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Cohen began to absorb new rhythms.

"I like to feel [music] through dancing and playing percussion, and try to close my eyes and just get into the mood of a song and a certain rhythm," Cohen says. "And then, if you really want to, it's an endless journey."

Anat's small-group CD is titled Poetica. With her Anzic Orchestra, she's also released Noir, and Braid is with brothers Yuval and Avishai. Her latest disc is titled Notes from the Village; appropriately enough, you can hear a new set from Anat Cohen recorded live at the Village Vanguard here.

When not on the road, Cohen lives in New York and has been known to play Dixieland at Birdland and Brazilian music with a group called the Choro Ensemble. Her flow and dance and concentration in performance all make her one of the best reasons to go out and see jazz.

Second Set: Mayuko Katakura

In Sendai, Japan, Mayuko Katakura grew up in a household where both of her parents were jazz musicians. She began playing piano at age 5 and studied classical music. As she grew older, she drew on the influence of Thelonious Monk, and in 2006, she ranked as a semi-finalist in the high-profile Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.

Like Anat Cohen, Katakura came to the U.S. to enroll at Berklee College of Music. She then moved on to the Juilliard School.

In 2006, Katakura won the Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Part of the prize was a performance at the 2007 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. Check out two selections from the concert here.

Both performances were recorded on May 11, 2007, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

This program originally ran Feb. 28, 2008.


Kevin Struthers is the director of jazz programming at the Kennedy Center. Greg Hartman of Big Mo Recording is the music mixer, with Mark Barrie.

Copyright 2008 WBGO

Becca Pulliam