Ryan Cohan Quintet | Green Mill | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Ryan Cohan Quintet Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Fri., Sept. 17, 9 p.m. and Sat., Sept. 18, 8 p.m. 2010

One of the city's most reliable mainstream jazz pianists, Ryan Cohan has built a discography that consists mostly of thoughtfully arranged suites—sprawling works that often call for large casts of collaborators and multiple lineup permutations. But after touring steadily with his quartet for the past few years, including several State Department-sponsored trips to Africa and Russia, he decided to capture what they do each night on the bandstand. The buoyant new Another Look (Motema) is a passel of sharp original compositions that shows off the strong rapport and crisp rhythmic interplay he's developed with reedist Geof Bradfield, bassist Lorin Cohen, and drummer Kobie Watkins. Cohan couldn't totally resist his love for collaboration, though, and augmented the band with New York vibist Joe Locke, who enhances the pianist's keen use of harmony, and percussionist Steve Kroon, who does the same for his rhythms. The sextet crackles on the opening "Monk'n Around," which cleverly interpolates a quote from Monk's "Four in One," and most of the pieces have a propulsive snap that's complemented by the rich timbres produced by Bradfield's silken tone and the ringing resonance of piano and vibes. "This or That" opens with a serene, tempo-shifting melody, providing the subsequent improvisations with potent source material. And Cohan's treatment of the Ellington standard "Caravan" draws upon Afro-Cuban reference points and the bluesy Afrocentric swing of pianist Randy Weston; with Bradfield and Locke sitting out, Cohan deploys a battery of shape-shifting, rhythmically charged phrases, giving the familiar theme plenty of new life.

Price: $12

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