Ryan Cohan Sextet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ryan Cohan Sextet

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Young Chicago pianist and composer Ryan Cohan offered us a taste of his music four years ago, with a self-produced debut called Real World; it's been a long wait for the sequel, Here and Now (Sirocco), but worth it. On nine new compositions, Cohan makes good on his early promise--his writing has leaped forward in maturity and command, while retaining his first album's healthy balance of tradition and innovation. His current sextet features trumpet and two woodwinds, and Cohan distinguishes himself with painterly use of the latter, most frequently pairing tenor or soprano sax with flute. His arrangements clearly take after the ambitious albums Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter made for Blue Note in the mid-60s--Speak Like a Child, The Soothsayer, The Prisoner--which also featured compact but versatile horn sections, often employing James Spaulding's flute for the same sort of emphatic color Cohan achieves. Cohan's group attracts attention by reviving the sound and shape of those classic (and somewhat underexamined) discs; it rewards that attention with the craftsmanship of Cohan's scoring and the unhurried development of his compositions. His piano work displays a similar patient artfulness, luxuriating in warm voicings and the generous use of space, but it takes a backseat to his writing--and the unfailingly appropriate horn solos it inspires. The sextet comprises mostly Chicago musicians, including drummer Dana Hall (who graces the compositions with an array of orchestral effects); the main soloist is the album's one ringer, west-coast reedist Bob Sheppard, who'll jet in for this extended weekend of CD-release appearances. Thursday, November 15, 7:30 PM, Columbia College Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan; 312-344-6179. Friday, November 16, 9 PM, and Saturday, November 17, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. Sunday, November 18, 7:30 PM, Herman Crown Center, Roosevelt University, 425 S. Wabash; 312-341-2238. Monday, November 19, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

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