|Pianist Steve Cohn
Dissident Arts Festival Appearance August 2016
@ ShapeShifter Lab
Steve Cohn - solo piano
(Unseenrain Records UR9983) Street Date: May 6, 2016
ANSPRUCHSVOLL – An exquisite recording of solo piano improvisations, alternately rhapsodic, pointillistic, reflective, gregarious, yet always Cohn. The hidden marriage of jazz and new music is always lurking beneath Steve's flowing pianism.
At every turn, Cohn surprises and exceeds expectations. Puns and wisps of ideas run through everything. Stutterstep syncopation becomes a uniting factor in a broad range of perspectives... Steve Cohn makes a place for himself among his contemporaries with this recording. He sits very comfortably next to Matthew Shipp or Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus.
—Brad Fasnacht, freelance writer in Chicago, former contributing editor, New York Press
Ever innovative, pianist Steve Cohn has developed a unique style of improvisation over the course of his career which has taken him across styles of jazz as well as around the world. With over 25 recordings in his name, Steve has played with the likes of Eddie Henderson, Sonny Simmons, Reggie Workman, Barry Altschul, Oliver Lake, Fred Hopkins, Bruce Ditmas, Denis Charles, William Parker, Bob Stewart, Frank Lowe ,Karl Berger, Steve Lacy among many others. He has performed his own works at venues such as New York City’s Miller Theatre, the Newport JVC Festival, the Great American Music Hall, World Shakuhachi Festivals and other festivals and tours in Europe, Estonia, Japan, Canada, Mexico and the USA.
He has conducted master classes (including the Paris National Conservatory) and has received grants from Arts International, Meet the Composer, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Two of his recordings, SUFI DANCERS and ITTEKIMASU, received four star ratings in Downbeat Magazine and placed on the list of top ten releases in Cadence Magazine. THE BEGGAR AND THE ROBOT IN DIAMONDS was also chosen on the “Top Ten List” by Tracking Angle. His recordings, BRIDGE OVER THE X-STREAM, THE BLAIR RECORDINGS, WIRE, IRO IRO and many more have also received much acclaim.
“Cohn’s intricate counterpoint and drama-infused harmonies are equally efective on muscular jazz-hued sprints and pointillistic passages. There are few American pianists who have Cohn’s talents”
—Bill Shoemaker, Downbeat Magazine
" Cohn's playing is hypnotic and remarkable throughout. He is a true original." Robert Spencer, Cadence Magazine
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About Steve Cohn
Music, art and poetry surge through the spirit of pianist & Shakuhachi innovator Steven Louis Cohn. Creatively he is unchained with a distinct virtuosity that has evolved over time. The unrestricted aspect of his improvisation has not confined him artistically. His talent has been admired and recognized by conventional outlets as well. Steve has conducted master classes at the Paris National Conservatory and has had his compositions commissioned for performance with the Wantanbe Dance Company in Japan. Cohn has been awarded performance grants from the NJ Council of the Arts, performed at ‘Ottawa Jazz Festival (’88 & 2000), Fiesta International USSR. Cohesively, Steve has worked with a number of well-renown musicians: Reggie Workman, Jason Hwang, William Parker Tom Varner, Fred Hopkins, Karl Berger, Oliver Lake, Barry Altschul; Bob Stewart. His invitation to be a part of the Movement meets Musician’s in Amsterdam infused dance and live painting with his music. Cohn’s journey is filled with intrigue and discovery as we chart his professional experience.
A San Francisco native, Steve began playing piano at the age of 8, while uncovering that he had a natural gift, he only became more serious about his craft as a teenager. Influenced by musicians such as Santana, Simon Garfunkel, The Supremes, Led Zeppelin & Howling Wolf Steve’s appreciation for a spectrum of music was imprinted from the start. Cohn’s early musical career began with a spontaneous introduction to the blues in high school. His concentration on creative expression was further piqued by Cohn’s arrival at UCLA in ‘71. The campus ethno-music program and multinational population ignited Steve’s fascination with world instruments. It ultimately led to his study of the Shakuhachi flute during his early undergraduate years. Cohn spent two years in Japan immersing himself in the culture. He later returned to the states and began studying classical piano & 20th century music at San Francisco State University with Pulitzer Prize winner, Wayne Peterson. Here, he further cultivated his affinity for Jazz. Cohn’s brilliance gave way to collaborations with the likes of Sonny Simmons & Eddie Henderson.
When asked to explain his approach to music Cohn remarks, “We don’t plan the music you don’t have to contrive it stands on its own without having to say anything. With my music I know the theory but I start on an unconscious level.” Yearning to expand his musical direction and innovate, Cohn threw away his musical map and plunged totally into improvisational music. He moved to New York City in ‘82 which gave way to performance highlights in New York’s Miller Theater for the New Works October Series. He has also performed at The Newport JVC Festival, Sweet Basil, The Great American Music Hall; Greenwich Village Jazz Festival. The heights of Steve’s improvisation soared as he taught himself how to extend the margins of traditional Shakuhachi playing. That same impulsive element is at the origin of his art work. A packet of felt “Pentel” pens given to him by his mother sparked his desire to paint and sketch. His earliest drawings began with an abstract interpretation of tarot cards. Today, Steve has numerous oil pastels, ink, charcoal, and watercolor pieces in his gallery. Each one is filled with the variation, complexity and theoretical elements that trace his music. Some have compared Cohn’s sound to the sense of floating in space while watching meteors zoom by. The musical landscape in New York became saturated by the end of the 90’s and began to stifle Cohn’s ingenuity. Steve travelled to Europe where he ended up performing primarily in Paris with 2 trios under his leadership. The first one featured Bass Player Stefan Kereki. The other trio with Bass Player J.J. Avenel & on drums John Betsch. His European tour further included a 2008 Amsterdam and Leiden Holland festival/ work-shops and 2010-Prague Shakuhachi Festival. Steve has toured in Chicago 3 times from 2008-2011 working closely in concert venues and recording session with artist Jimmy Bennington, Guillermo Gregorio, Jeff Marx, Dushon Mosely among others. Most recently in 2012 thru 2015 Cohn collaborated with producer Doc Holiday in Norfolk Virginia and Nashville Tennessee for the release of “Electric Jazz Opus" in studio recording, "Please Leave a Message" and soon to be released "Spokenash". Collectively, Steve’s untethered passion to stretch the musical landscape remains. His adventures in the arena of abstract continue. He is still innovating classical and jazz standards with novel interpretation. Cohn uncovers new levels of improvisation that cast intrigue. That is the magic of his legacy.
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