Steve Cohn: The Beggar and The Robot in Diamonds

It’s nice to be made aware of artists you haven’t heard of previously who, in this age of prefab and predictability, can go their own way convincingly. Such are my feelings on# hearing Steve Cohn and readers who like free jazz (remember free jazz?) should seek him out. Cohn plays piano primarily, and sounds like he has absorbed something from modern classical composers like Boulez or Xenakis. Whatever his influences, he has a unique and often intriguing instrumental voice.

The Beggar features Fred Hopkins, bass, Jason Hwong, violin, and Tom Vorner, French horn, while The Robot in Diamonds lineup has Frank Lowe on tenor, Bob Stewart, tuba, William Parker, bass and musette, Karl Berger, vibes, and Zen Motzuura, drums. It is of course a gas to hear Lowe and Berger again but the less familiar names are also impressive- especially Hwong and Vorner. The music seems to develop via riffs and patterns that pass around from player to player. Occasionally things bog down but for the most part it all moves very well. Everybody listens, everybody contributes, and the music takes on a life of its own.