Kelan Philip Cohran And The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
When it comes to the early foundations of the Sun Ra Arkestra and in particular the transitional years from the 50′s into the 60′s in Chicago, trumpeter extraordinaire Philip Cohran is an important piece to this equation. Equally talented on many other instruments, Philip Cohran was also deeply involved into the multi-disciplines gained through ancestral antiquity and world knowledge. Sun Ra was an artist who pushed his artists to the max and it was during this fruitful musical transition of 159-1961 that Cohran would find his voice. This is a voice that became a representation for disciplines that stretched far outside of just the jazz idiom. Originally from the same city as the one and only Miles Davis, Philip Cohran’s loves for knowledge was a large reason he was so successful in the creation of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) non profit organization. Deeply invested into his community as he was the preservation of advanced forms of music, it is a startling reality to think that Cohran still brings the weight and integrity he did some 50+ years ago in his new records. It is with Honest Jon’s records that Cohran celebrates many traditions, stories and experiences with the band that also happens to be his children.
Kelan Philip Cohran And The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble exotically consumes every space imaginable in trance like movement, allowing for an identity that allows the world to emerge. There are no electronic instruments on this record and it still retains that glow of up beat positive energy from the state of electricity. Kelan Philip Cohran And The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble begins in a strutting and vigorous mode and plants itself in a town that is south of Mexico City called Cuernevaca. Cohran lifts the spirit into the most joyous of states. “I was there in 1950 when I was on the road with Jay McSann’s band.” explains Cohran. “It’s a place of close to paradise, a city filled with the fragrance of flowers.” The arrangement of horns are of the richest texture and reminds me of music straight from Spain. “Cuernevaca” never lets up with a marvelous mixing of silk like up right bass, syncopated drumming and passionate horn lines that are extremely uplifting.
“Ancestral” is the song on the album that might stand as one of the most revelatory and spiritually florescent of the entire record. This is an arrangement that sustains a long lasting flow instead of pacing through tightly grooved drum and bass work. Created for Cohran’s residency in Chicago at the Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant on Friday evenings, it’s this type of work that reveals an essence and grace fallen into the hands of these musicians from the cosmos. “Spin” is the piece that ensues and comes from a very different world. Cohran had this to say about its purpose, “Everything in the cosmos spins, from the smallest objects we can see in a microscope to the largest galaxies. Spin is the motion of all things whether it looks like it or not…” The bass is elastic in this song the longer the track progresses, with some incredible string work and a really lively flow. This is the type of music that resonates in the mind so well and makes the album converge to a very modern and muscular feel.
The record shifts into a heavy African derived piece with the song “Stateville”. With the sonic weight of a thousand people marching in the same direction, the conceptual meaning associated is just as heavy. Cohran understood the vicious and catastrophic affects prisons were having on people in society and music was one way that he took it upon himself to teach those in the prison system a new way of expression. Cohran became a teacher and provided regular workshops for inmates at Stateville, a famous prison where Al Capone stayed. It was this type of dedication that led him down a path of not only spreading knowledge, but giving it to those who could heal from it in the most needed ways. The bass centers the songs melodic drive with crisp, tightly placed drum runs that are always changing in relationship to the atmosphere of the horns. When the horn solo’s let out, the drums ride the pocket but always blend outward, creating a vortex all its own. This has that Mulatu Astatke Ethiopian groove with a modern funk drive infused under it, a meeting of the past and present that gives a lot of presence to the band backing Cohran.
The expression of culture found on Kelan Philip Cohran And The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is unparalleled and will trap any fan of hypnotic jazz and soul music. This is the type of global connection to sound, philosophy, history and mystery that will stand the test of time.