We were in attendance for the second of three weekend gigs by pianist Ryan Cohan and his quartet, celebrating the release of his new CD titled Another Look. This evening's performance took place at the North side's fabled Green Mill Lounge and was especially compelling because the band was joined for the shows at the Mill by world famous vibraphonist Joe Locke - who also appears on the album.
As was to be expected, the band performed several selections from the new album, including opening up with the first song from the album - the delightful "Monkin' Around." The effervescent Locke made his presence immediately felt and his mallets were a blur of action, while Cohan added a joyous solo himself. Joining Cohan and Locke were Cohan's usual group, including stellar reed player Geof Bradfield, first rate bassist Lorin Cohen and drummer Kobie Watkins (Sonny Rolins, Kurt Elling), and everybody got into the act with energetic playing on this number.
The lovely ballad, "You and Me" followed, before the band kicked into Victor Feldman's churning "Joshua" - a mainstay of Cohan's sets. This high-powered tune always gets the crowd excited and this was no exception. Bradfield's tenor solo here showed his Coltrane leanings clearly. A trio version of "Caravan" started off with a compelling solo piano intro from Cohan - who is one of the finest pianists in the city, and had people in the crowd shaking their heads in wonder when the band finished up. It is a treat to hear this oft-played number taken in a new direction. The first set ended strongly with Bradfield on bass clarinet on the bluesy "Steppin' Up" - a number that featured Watkins charging ahead like a steam train, while Locke sang along with his vibes.
Set two started off with the a Cohan favorite - the Bud Powell-inspired "Roscoe Street" - showcasing Cohan and Bradfield on tenor - with solos by all four quartet members. Locke rejoined the band for the title track of the new album, with Bradfield playing both soprano sax and bass clarinet. The vibraphonist was insanely good on this satisfying number. Those who haven't seen this artist must make a point to catch him next time he is in town. "Gentle Souls" and "This or That" followed with Bradfield's soprano work on the former and his tenor on the latter rhythm-shifting song a standout. This set cncluded with ahighly inventive rendering of "'Round Midnight" with some of Cohan 's best work of the night. A great opportunity to catch these great players in action playing many of the songs from Cohan's new and possibly best album to date.
Ryan Cohan Quartet at Room 43 - story and photos by James Walker, Jr.
It's always such a pleasure listening to pianist Ryan Cohan and his recent performance at the Hyde Park Jazz Society's weekly set at Room 43 on the South Side was no exception. Ryan was debuting his new CD entitled Another Look with his awesome band mates of bassist Lorin Cohen, saxophonist Geof Bradfield, and drummer Kobie Watkins.
Although Room 43 was not at full capacity, those in attendance were treated to a royal performance by four of Chicago's finest musicians.They began the set with "Monk'n Around," a tribute to Theolonius Monk. Ryan, Geof and Kobie took extended solos on this mid tempo number that's the first track of the new CD. Throughout the entire evening , Ryan shared the spotlight with his able colleagues - all who are leaders and often front their own ensembles.
First crowd pleaser of the evening was "Joshua" as they turned up the heat on this up tempo number. Drummer Watkins was already in attack mode on his drum kit as is usual for him. Kobie, even in the background, is a highlight reel. Also in the background, bassist Cohen's deep tones were very discernible.
This was followed by Ryan's arrangement of "Caravan," a number performed without Bradfield. Watkins and Ryan hit a peak on this compelling Duke Ellington classic as they played it at breakneck speed that had some toe tapping in their seats as bassist Cohen ties it all together with a steady pulse.This number got everyone's attention.
Watkins was featured on "Steppin Up," a selection that was reminiscent of a good old fashion Bebop number. Bradfield was feeling it on this tune and was swinging back on forth. He was loose and in a groove as they concluded the first set on a high note.
Highlights of the 2nd set included "Song for My Grandfather," a number Ryan wrote more than twenty years ago in memory of his grandfather. This piece featured an outstanding solo by bassist Lorin Cohen. This was a sweet melodic tune.
"Roscoe St" demonstrated Ryan's "two handed" keyboarding. Ryan uses the entire keyboard with effect and isn't reluctant to use his left hand to get his message across. Often pianists rely heavily on the right side of the keyboard only.
Occasionally during the evening, Bradfield picked up his soprano sax, especially on ballads like "Skylark". This was beautifully done and showed the diversity of this great band.
This fine evening came to a conclusion with their version of Monk's "Round Midnight."
Congratulations to Ryan Cohan for not only another exception performance, but also for the fine compositions that he continues to produce that can be found on Another Look. Chicago is very fortunate that he continues to call this great city his home.
For detailed information about future Hyde Park Jazz Society events, refer to their website at www.hydeparkjazzsociety.org.