A thrill to watch and sublime to hear, Lorin Cohen has distinguished himself as one of the most exciting and dynamic musicians on the scene today. His tuneful compositions, joyful groove and powerful stage presence has resonated with audiences throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.
“I started playing the bass because I wanted to make people dance”.
Growing up in Chicago, Cohen was raised in a home inundated with art, music and culture. His mother Muriel, a music teacher, played guitar, piano, and violin. Beginning on alto saxophone in fourth grade, Lorin picked up the bass guitar at 14 so that he could jam with his guitar-playing older brother Elliott and his cousin, the pianist (and future Guggenheim Fellow) Ryan Cohan.
Cohen’s earliest influences are rooted in the deep blues heritage of his native Chicago. “We used to sneak out to the great blues clubs in the city, soaking up the sounds. I was captivated by the magnitude of soul can be expressed in a mere 3 chords and 12 bars alone”.
By the age of 15, Cohen was performing professionally with some of the most important bluesmen in the city. The raw emotive power of the blues is a hallmark of Cohen’s music to this day.
Influenced by his brother’s love of Chicago blues and classic rock, Lorin eventually discovered Jaco Pastorious, Chick Corea, and ultimately, straight ahead jazz.
“There is nothing more wonderful than recording and touring with fantastic musicians”
After giving Monty Alexander a demo in 2005, the Jamaican piano icon called on Cohen to join him for an engagement at the Widder Hotel in Zurich. Thus began relationship that would last 7 years, with Cohen accompanying Alexander on the most illustrious world stages.
He is featured on the pianist’s two recordings for the Chesky label, The Good Life: Monty Alexander Plays the Songs of Tony Bennett and Calypso Blues: The Songs of Nat King Cole.
In addition to Alexander, Lorin has shared his talents with numerous jazz luminaries, including: Joe Locke (with whom he has recorded three albums and toured throughout the U.S and Japan, Steve Wilson, Geoffrey Keezer, Victor Lewis, Stefon Harris, Michael Weiss, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Cyrille Aimee, Joe Labarbara, Peter Bernstein and Roni Ben-Hur, to name a few.
Cohen’s musical experiences are not limited to the world of jazz. He was a bassist for the Chicago run of Jersey Boys (2008-2010) as well as the Broadway production of Motown: The Musical (2014). His work as a bass guitarist, producer and songwriter is featured on the eponymous album by the R&B/Hip-hop/Jazz group Vertikal.
He recently co-produced the French chromatic harmonica virtuoso Yvonnick Prene’s forthcoming release Breathe, featuring Peter Bernstein, among others
The Universal Language
“Brubeck said it best - ‘Music is the heartbeat of the world’”
Cohen is deeply passionate about the power of music to cross cultural boundaries, spanning the globe to foster cultural exchange through music.
As a “Jazz Ambassador” for the U.S. Department of State and the Kennedy Center, Lorin toured Southeast Asia in 2004. On that tour, he performed and taught in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Bangladesh. The Yamaha Musical Instrument Corporation chose Lorin to “road test” their “Silent Bass” for the tour.
He spent February of 2008 with the Ryan Cohan Quartet on a five-country tour of Africa and the Middle East as part of “The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad” program, a partnership between the U.S. State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Lorin and his band mates were selected by a panel headed by Wynton Marsalis to perform and conduct workshops throughout Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Jordan.
Based on the success of that tour, the U.S. State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center selected the group for another journey of cultural exchange in February of 2009, this time to Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine in.
“This music has been my way back home. I hope that on some level, it can be yours as well”
In 2015, Cohen released HOME on Origin Records. It is a deeply personal chronicle, reflecting Cohen’s transition from his Chicago roots to a new home in the jazz mecca of NYC. In telling this story, Cohen uses the many musical influences that inform his palette: the blues of his native Chicago, the radiant sounds of the Greater Antilles, and the hard-driving swing of NYC.
This critically acclaimed album of all original compositions showcases an utterly unique font line of vibraphone, steel pan and harmonica. It features a stellar international group of players: Legendary NYC vibraphonist Joe Locke, the virtuoso steel pannist from the Virgin islands Victor Provost, French harmonica rising star Yvonnick Prene, Chicago pianist Ryan Cohan, veteran NYC drummer Donald Edwards and Colombian percussionist Samuel Torres.
HOME was recently selected by Downbeat Magazine as one of the “Best albums of 2015”.
On Cohen’s unique group sound, The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich has noted: Cohen’s group is a “zesty band that sounded like none other”. He added that he was “moved by this music, the work attesting once again to the originality and ardor of the bassist's art.
About the album, Cohen has written:
I chose mallet instruments and harmonica as the lead voices for my melodies. The steel pan and vibraphone, particularly in the hands of Victor and Joe, represent a synthesis of harmony, melody and rhythm. Moreover, there’s a vocal quality in the way Joe and Victor play which I love - that seeming incompatibility of managing to “sing” by means of mallet and metal alone. It’s a testament to their unique talents, and I feel like it gives this music a special character.
The chromatic harmonica and steel pan are essentially “folk” instruments, and I like that. The former was popular in France as a more agile alternative to the accordion and the latter, as the national instrument of Trinidad, grew out of people's primal need to express themselves using what they found around them, which at the time, were steel oil containers. The steel pan is volcanic and rooted, while the chromatic harmonica is almost transcendent, soaring above the ensemble. With this instrumentation, I can take the listener on a journey from Chicago to New York, the Caribbean, Europe and back again.
Like the song “Saudade” (Sau-da-djee) on the album, whose title comes from the Cape Verdean Portuguese for a feeling of being dispossessed, this music represents my personal journey away from home as well as my dedication to the wonderful home in which I grew up and the family and friends that gave that home its glow. After losing that home, coupled with the passing of my father and brother in recent years, the urgency of paying tribute and expressing hope and joy through my music became a priority.
Cohen continues to use his global ear to reflect the human story, and connect to and inspire music lovers throughout the world.