Two reviews of clarinetist Anat Cohen’s recently released Clarinetwork Live At The Village Vanguard single out that disc’s 10-minute-plus “St. James Infirmary” as a highlight. The performance (live, as the title indicates) was apparently part of an evening marking the centennial of Benny Goodman, and called “Benny Goodman and Beyond.” All About Jazz, which has a concise but informative backgrounder on Cohen’s career built into its review, says:
“St James Infirmary” proves to be the highlight of the album and Cohen reaches a state of musical ecstasy heretofore unheard, as her clarinet moans, sighs, soars and wails with passion and emotion, while the rhythm section drives it all. The bluesy, New Orleans sway is perfectly presented through [Benny] Green’s piano solo, which bridges the gap before Cohen returns with the melody.
And Cahl’s Juke Joint notes that while Cohen uses Goodman as a jumping off point, she also “draws from New Orleans jazz, bebop and blues,” adding:
Take her rendition of “St. James Infirmary.” She starts with a slow, sultry swing. By mid-song, though, she’s wailing. It’s one of my favorite renditions of the song, and that’s saying something. Pianist Benny Green, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash set one of the sexiest blues grooves I’ve heard since Gene Harris died and Cohen rides it hard.
I haven’t yet acquired this myself, but I’ll get to that soon, I’m sure. (After all, these are pretty rave write-ups.)
But in the meantime, both reviews point to the YouTube video below of Cohen performing the tune on a different date. The video credits say it’s from Birdland in New York, January 6, 2009, and that in addition to Cohen, the musicians are Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, Jim Fryer on trombone, Ehud Asherie on piano, David Ostwald on tuba and Marion Felder on drums. Evidently the video was shot by none other than Ricky Riccardi, whose very fine Louis Armstrong-focused blog I’ve mentioned a few times here before.