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Steve Cohn: Bridge Over the X-Stream

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Steve Cohn is a thoughtful composer and pianist who first surfaced in the early ’80s. His recordings never lack for well-formed ideas and vigorous exchanges between him and his collaborators. Yet his music has been documented far too infrequently in recent years. As a result, Cohn’s latter recordings have the feel of isolated snapshots instead of a chapter from an ongoing narrative. Given his assets, he deserves a label that will regularly release his work.

This concert recording reveals Cohn to have developed a sure sense of open-form composition within a chamber jazz configuration. Violinist Jason Hwang, French horn player Tom Varner and master bass player Reggie Workman are on the same page with Cohn, judiciously choosing their spots to shine and adding substantive, yet unobtrusive, commentary when another player steps to the fore. Cohn’s use of shakuhachi (bamboo flute), hichiricki (oboelike double reed horn), shofar (ram’s-horn trumpet) and percussion gives the music vivid textural shifts, but for the most part, it is Cohn’s piano that shapes the pieces. He is an impressively wide-ranging pianist, equally adept at the fragmentary lyricism most commonly associated with Paul Bley and the edgy large chords and harplike arpeggios Bobby Few can muster. No wonder players of the caliber assembled here rally around him as a leader.