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Keren Ann calls from the road

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Captivating singer-songwriter will perform as a duet with trumpeter Avishai Cohen on June 14 at the Cedar

By MORDECAI SPECKTOR

I will sing of faithfulness and justice…

— Psalm 101, A Psalm of David

Keren Ann, the multi-talented Israel-born, Paris-based singer-songwriter, has been on the road. In May, she played dates in Tel Aviv, Paris, Berlin and Cologne. She kicked off a U.S. tour, in support of her sixth album, 101 (Blue Note), this past week with shows in New York and Boston.

On June 14, Keren Ann (née Zeidel) will perform at the Cedar Cultural Center, where she will play as a duet with acclaimed Israeli jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen. Singer-songwriter Chris Garneau will open the show.

During a phone interview with the Jewish World last week from New York City, Keren Ann discussed her far-flung musical projects, the new femme fatale persona on display in 101 (4-29-11 AJW), and an enduring relationship with Israel.

Following her swing through the States and Canada, Keren Ann will play summer festivals in Europe; then from September through December she is booked for shows in Europe and Asia. “A long road,” she says, with a laugh.

In addition to her busy touring schedule, Keren Ann collaborates with several other musicians. When the subject of Sweden came up in the conversation, she mentioned working in Malmö with Tore Johansson, a renowned composer and producer (The Cardigans, Franz Ferdinand). She also records and performs with Bardi Johannsson, a musician from Iceland, in the group Lady and Bird. And in April, Keren Ann provided some French-flavored vocals for a show called the Philly-Paris Lockdown, which was curated by ?uestlove, drummer for The Roots, as part of the Philadelphia International Festival of Arts.

Keren Ann: I feel very attached to Tel Aviv, to Caesarea; it’s in my songs. (Photo: Benjamin Seroussi)Keren Ann: I feel very attached to Tel Aviv, to Caesarea; it’s in my songs. (Photo: Benjamin Seroussi)

Asked about her tour so far, the 37-year-old chanteuse mentions that it’s “going great.” She adds that it is “challenging as always to tour with my material, because I’m a sound addict and a sound designer, and my work in the studio is so different from my work on stage.” Keren Ann explains that her studio recordings are “all about aesthetics and bringing out the sound, it’s my world of sound.” So she has to make sonic adjustments when, as in her current U.S. tour, she performs “solo, intimate shows.”

“I’m really happy to play the new material,” she comments.

As mentioned, her show at the Cedar will feature the singer with ace trumpeter Avishai Cohen. He has been playing with the SFJazz Collective; and with his new trio called Triveni, with bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits. (Cohen is the brother of Anat Cohen, who has played at the Dakota Jazz Club recently.)

“Whenever we get a chance to play together it’s a treat,” Keren Ann says, in looking forward to the Cedar gig. “I wish that I could bring my entire band from Europe and do the rock shows I’m doing at the moment; but when I come to the U.S…. it’s mostly solo shows, so when I get to have Avishai with me, it’s really cool.”

Keren Ann also praises her “fantastic” opening act, Chris Garneau, an American singer-songwriter and pianist.

And what’s with the 101 cover photo of Keren Ann, looking glam with a short bob cut and holding a pistol?

First, she explains that “101” is the numeric value of her Hebrew initials — kuf (100) and alef (1). “And Tehillim Kuf Alef [Psalm 101] is also my psalm,” Keren Ann explains. “I’ve always liked this number and thought it was aesthetically very appealing…. It has a nice feel to it.”

She also mentions, “Unfortunately, I had to dial that number a lot, because that’s how you call the ambulance in Israel.” Keren Ann had been tending to her ailing Israeli father, who died in June of last year.

As for changing her “eternal look of the folksinger with the long hair and the guitar,” she says, “It was never me.” Keren Ann says that she comes “from engineering and sound and production, and I still think that is a very big part of the identity of my music.” So, from an aesthetic point of view, she decided, “the more femme fatale woman in me could deliver this record better.”

On the subject of Israel, Keren Ann, who has both Dutch and Israeli citizenship, says that her ties to the Jewish state run deep. “I have a lot to do with this country; I was born there. I feel very attached to New York, I feel very attached to Paris, but I feel very attached to Tel Aviv, to Caesarea; it’s in my songs, it’s in there just as much as New York and Paris. It’s a part of who I am.”

Keren Ann is looking forward to returning to the Cedar, an oasis for musicians on the road. “This is one stop I always look for on the road,” she says, and offers lavish praise for the West Bank club’s green room ambiance and its music-loving audience. “This is a place I always recommend for musicians on the road.”

When she takes the Cedar stage next Tuesday evening, Keren Ann will be packing a satchel of new songs from 101, a strong recording effort that rewards repeated listening. Her local fans already know about her charming live performances; and this is a good time for those unfamiliar with her music to get a taste.

***

Keren Ann performs in concert, with Avishai Cohen, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 14 at the Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. S., on the West Bank of Minneapolis. Singer-songwriter Chris Garneau opens the show. For tickets ($13 in advance, $15 on the day of the show), go to: thecedar.org or call 612-338-2674 ext. 2. For information, visit: kerenann.com.

The American Jewish World is the media sponsor for this musical event.

(American Jewish World, 6.10.11)

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