Listening to "Gentle Giant", I am reminded of my initial reaction to Wynton Marsalis's 1986 album, "Black Codes From the Underground." There is an audacious quality to the music, making one sit up and pay attention to what each musician is playing and how the ensemble interacts. We could argue all day long whether the music is "new" or not but that's not the point here. Cohen and company - Robert Hurst (bass), Nate Winn (drums), Greg Osby (alto and soprano saxophone on four tracks), and the afore-mentioned Jamie Oehlers (tenor saxophone on six tracks) - make this music breathe, alive with possibility, and going in unexpected directions. Case in point - the album opens with "Nardis", arguably the most famous Miles Davis composition that the trumpeter never recorded to his satisfaction but was pleased by pianist Bill Evans's many recordings of the tune. The music grows outward from the rhythm section, the slinky bass line that opens the piece and the atmospheric introduction. Oehlers (a mentor to the pianist in his school years in Australia and beyond) plays the melody while the piano, bass, and drums give the rhythms a Middle-Eastern feel. Listen to how Cohen builds his solo, the intensity he discovers, the interactions with Hurst and Winn. There is delight in this performance, power as well but a great feeling of playfulness.
For more information, go to www.talcohenmusic.com.
The story the duo tells on "Manhattan In the Rain" (composed by Duncan Lamont) is powerful description of chance encounter that goes from good to sad. It is performed without sentimentality or treacle but with honesty and beauty (the rainstorm conjured up by Cohen's piano is magical). Throughout the program, one can hear how time the musicians spent exploring the songs, moving away from cliched performances into interpretations that are more personal. That's what audiences usually want. If artists are going
perform standards, make the pieces sound brand-new. If the emotions are honest, the music has power.
For more information, go to www.daniellewertz.com or to www.talcohenmusic.com.
Here's a video that tells the story behind the recording: