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Ryan Cohan



Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago,IL
Mar. 16, 2008

Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan

Story and Photos by James Walker

Although keyboardist Ryan Cohan was a relative unknown to many of those in attendance at the weekly Hyde Park Jazz Society's Checker Jazz Set at the Checkerboard Lounge on March 16th, he quickly erased any doubts about his qualifications and abilities with the sparse, but very appreciative hardcore jazz crowd.

Cohan performs throughout the United States and only recently returned to Chicago from a very successful tour of several African Countries with a series of concerts and seminars.This tour was sponsored by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Foundation in New York. He's also enjoying critical acclaim for his most recent CD, "One Sky."

This writer had not previously experienced a Ryan Cohan set, but looked forward to this Checker Jazz gig after reviewing his website and listening to his CD.Also, he's done quite a bit of work with Orbert Davis, and those familiar with his work understand the caliber of musicians that Orbert associates with.

With that being said, Mr. Cohan and his exceptional band did not disappoint the Checker Jazz audience. The crowd was very attentive from start to finish, unlike the distractions that were encountered the previous week by pianist John Wright. The Jazz Society appropriately, issued patrons a "Please respect the Musicians, be quiet during the show" cards upon entry.

It was very obvious from the top of the show that this group of musicians were very familiar with one another. This was Ryan's band that he's recorded with and toured with. They accurately anticipated each others move as they seamlessly progressed from one movement to the next. Ryan shared the stage with this group all night long as each had ample time to display individual talents with extended solos. Geoff Bradford was center stage blowing mellow sounds from the tenor sax, Lorin Cohen maintained the beat with his upright bass and George Fludas kept time on the drums.

Much of what was played on this evening were original selections of Ryan and Geoff and/or were influenced by past great jazz musicians. The first such tune of the evening was a Cohan original entitled "Monkin Around." This was influenced my the work of Thelonious Monk. Miles Davis's "Joshua" was the next selection and Cohan displayed some beautiful, smooth, long runs. He's like an artist painting a picture when he runs from the extremes on the keyboard. He doesn't forceably attack the keys, he dissects them with patience and purpose.

Another nice piece played during the first set was another Cohan original, "Song for My Grandfather." This serene ballad was introduced with a long keyboard solo with deep bass tones clearly distinguished in the background. Ryan and bassist Cohen beautifully complemented each other on this selection.

The band paid tribute to the late Oscar Peterson with "Wheatland," taken from Peterson's "Canadian Suite." This number was played without the aide of the sax, with Ryan Cohan at his best. This highlight again demonstrated the complete control he has with both hands. It takes that kind of skill to master a Peterson selection. Bassist Cohen had another nice extended solo on this song. Clifford Brown's "Daahood," a selection that Peterson often played completed the first set. In addition to Cohan's quick fingers, drummer Fludas and Bradford shared the spotlight.

The second set was a continuation of the fine music this ensemble displayed during the first 90 minutes. They covered music of other outstanding composers like Duke Ellington's "Don't You Know I Care," Randy Weston's "Little Nile," Cedar Walton's "Bolivia," in addition to more of their originals. Bradford's original entitled "Twirl" was a midtempo tune inspired by his daughter. All had extended solos on this number, yet it must be noted that bassist Cohen was simply brilliant on this piece where he combined uncanny speed while seeming to gain energy and ideas with each stroke. This writer noticed Ryan glance in Cohen's direction on several occasions for an apparent change but Cohen was "in a zone" and wasn't ready to relinquish the spotlight just yet. Cohen also demonstrated similar mastery of the bass on "Lullaby of the Leaves." This multi-tempo'd number had a few "Latin" chords with Cohan maintaining the continuity and integrity of its theme.

As previously mentioned, Cohan didn't hesitate to share the stage with his exceptional band mates throughout the evening, yet it was during his rendition of Duke's "Don't you Know I Care" that he demonstrated an "Ellingtonesque" style while lightly tickling the 88s. This number was again done without Bradford's sax and was strictly all Cohan. Neither Fludas nor Lorin Cohen took solos as Ryan hit his peak with compelling passion and vigor.

This was an evening to just sit back and enjoy the sounds of four young men making beautiful music.It was very relaxing, yet at the same time stimulating while whetting the palate for more. This writer found himself in rhythm with the group from the start; spontaneously reacting to the moving sounds with "foot tapping and head nodding." Ryan Cohan don't forget that name. It's important for serious jazz fans to check him out the next time he performs in the Chicago area. You owe it to yourself.

For detailed information about future Checker Jazz sets, refer to their website at: www.checkerjazz.org.

Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan Group
Ryan Cohan Group
Geoff Bradford
Geoff Bradford
Lorin Cohen
Lorin Cohen
Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan
George Fludas
George Fludas
George Fludas
George Fludas
Lorin Cohen
Lorin Cohen
Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan
George Fludas
George Fludas
Ryan Cohan Group
Ryan Cohan Group
George Fludas
George Fludas
Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan
Lorin Cohen
Lorin Cohen

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Contact James Walker, Jr. and JazzChicago.net

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