"Anjani album delves into Cohen's world"

by Fred Shuster

Los Angeles Daily News

May 23, 2006
To make her new album, jazz singer Anjani had access to something other singers would kill for poetic songwriter Leonard Cohen's trove of journals, unpublished works and unfinished drafts. Those boxes of material, which close friend Cohen authorized her to use, were the basis for the single-named Anjani's just-issued Blue Alert, a set of warm, intimate songs highlighted by the singer's exotic vocal style. The disc was produced and co-written by Cohen, with whom Anjani has worked as backup singer on the road and in the studio for more than 20 years.

We caught up with Anjani who was born in Honolulu, attended Boston's Berklee College of Music and currently lives in Los Angeles in Washington, D.C., where she and Cohen were attending a book convention.

Q: How did you decide which of Leonard's scraps to use?

A: The ones that struck me were immediately apparent. We went through quite a few things, but the things I wanted to do were more about relationships and where I am right now and the direction I'm going in. I wasn't in the space to get into pieces dealing with social commentary. I wanted to create this collection of songs I could really get into.

Q: What's Cohen like as a collaborator?

A: I was intending to sweeten up the music with a rhythm section and various musicians and that's when Leonard's antenna went up. The more we added, the more distracting it became. He doesn't want anything to take attention away from the song and the vocal. He's like a diamond cutter, with a a laserlike precision with words. You get the feeling nobody else could write a better lyric than he does. His songs are so airtight.

Q: You moved to Los Angeles in the '80s when there was still a lively jazz scene. What happened?

A: Everything dried up, and it's reflected in the state of contemporary music. It's become so marketing driven that the record companies just want you to dance and sing and look gorgeous. There's a greater emphasis on entertainment rather than longevity.