Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ryan Cohen "Another Look" (Motema Music)

Chicago pianist and composer Ryan Cohen has played in a number of musical contexts as well as with his quartet of bassist Lorin Cohen, saxophonist Geof Bradfield and drummer Kobie Watkins. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Composition has augmented this quartet with vibraphonist Joe Locke and percussionist Steve Kroon for his new Motema Music release “Another Look.” With the exceptions of Victor Feldman’s “Joshua” and the Ellington classic, “Caravan”, Cohen contributed the compositions for this varied recording. One thing that is clear when listening to this is that Cohen’s working band is terrific.

The opening of “
Monk’N Around” caught my ears, with Cohen contributing some Monk-ish piano runs before Locke takes the first solo with a skittering attack as Cohen chords under him, before Cohen takes a propulsive solo that alludes to Monk’s style. “Joshua” opens with hot piano setting up the groove with Bradfield taking a muscular tenor sax solo followed by hot piano as Watkins’ simmers on the cymbals. Locke returns on a lovely ballad “You & Me,” with his vibes marvelous while Cohen’s own solo and Bradfield’s soft tenor accompaniment lend this performance a precious quality. “This or That” is more spirited with Bradfield’s thoughtful playing (with little if any vibrato) complementing the leader’s piano as the rhythm section (including Locke) swing hard. Bradfield and Locke sit out the stunning latin jazz rendition of “Caravan,” a performance which benefits from Kroon’s rhythmic accents.

Gentle Souls” opens with Bradfield’s solo tenor sax before switching to soprano sax with the full ensemble and then stating the theme as Locke adds coloring followed by the leader’s solo, and Bradfield’s serpentine soprano sax with Locke taking the lead for the coda. Locke is featured with a vigorous and entrancing solo developing the lovely melody of “Another Look.” “Song For My Grandfather” finds him in a pensive mode in the introductory section of this lovely jazz waltz by Cohen, Lorin Cohen and Kobie Watkins. I was especially impressed by Watkins’ playing throughout this recording, whether his use of cymbals or his lively latin groove. The closing “Stepping Out” evokes classic bebop tunes of Bird and Dizzy with Cohen spectacular and Locke in a spirited mode.

Another Look” is a thoroughly entertaining with excellent original compositions, superb ensemble playing and thoughtful, spirited solos that is strongly recommended.

My review copy was provided by a publicist for this release.

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