Anat Cohen. I first heard that name when I was fifteen years old, starting my studies at a new High school. The first letters of our last names are consecutive in the Hebrew alphabet, and when the class roster was used to couple students for various tasks, we were often paired. One memorable such occurrence placed us at the entrance gate to our high school, where we were tasked with inspecting the entrants, asking for their ID, and inquiring about their destination. There was of course plenty of downtime. We have been friends ever since.
We have also been musical collaborators since around that time, and developed a rare musical understanding and intuition. I feel like I not only do I know how Anat will execute a certain phrase (I rarely write phrasing marks in her solo part - they are not needed) I know how it will sound and feel.
Our work on Luminosa was the first time we officially collaborated on a recording since Noir. Anat is often involved with the music I make, and I usually in hers, but this time, I had a clearly defined production role. I guess we are growing up.
I didn't write any arrangements for this album, which is unusual for me these days. Anat and I did co-write a tune that didn't end up on the album. Anat had plenty of ideas for possible materials and collaborators, and I felt I could make myself useful by simplifying and organizing these efforts in the pre-production phase.
The tracking experience was great. James Farber knows Anat's sound and Avatar's studio C very well. The session was somewhat challenging - lots of percussion instruments, different guitar players and a choro trio added. I think the result sounds effortless.
I remember many performances that blew me away; Joe Martin's arco work is just unbelievable; the vibe on Espinha De Bacalhau was levitating - and Jason's solo on the chosen take was just perfect in every way. Daniel Freedman's high hat really makes me dance, and Anat just has a way of touching everyone's soul when she plays.
So - not a lot for a producer to "do" behind the control room glass, right? The band is prepared, is superb and has been playing together for years, the engineer is great, the room is working, the assistant orders the food and the guests are hitting all the marks. So what's a producer to do?
Just sit. Listen. Make sure musicians are comfortable. Make sure folks are in tune. Make sure the session is focused. Gently offer opinions when the live room gets stuck or becomes tense. My experience has been that often the sessions that seem to produce themselves require the most attention and delicacy from the producer. If folks leave the studio thinking "Oh, we didn't need a producer on this" I feel like I did my job; That session was most likely well prepared during pre-production, and if my assistance was needed during the tracking process, it was gentle and transparant enough so as not to interfere with the intense concentration needed to bring emotion to a recorded product.
This album is superb. When Bradley Bambarger wrote his excellent press release to accompany the album he asked for a quote. Here is what I said:
“Anat has always been a versatile musician, able to bounce between multiple aesthetics. Her familiarity with the styles she plays goes deep, though – she doesn't only play Brazilian music, for instance, she also speaks Portuguese. So whether it’s choro or traditional jazz, her relationship with the art is cultural, with reverence for the history of the music. These various styles have often been a bit segregated in terms of Anat's recorded output, but this album is different. This is not Anat’s ‘Brazilian Album.’ To me, it is Anat’s ‘Anat Album.’ Beyond being an extraordinary instrumentalist, she is able to communicate pure emotion to the listener. That’s what is front and center on this album.”
Hear for yourself: