Philip Cohran has been a force in avant-garde music since the early 1960s when he joined Sun Ra’s Arkestra (Angels and Demons at Play is perhaps my favorite Sun Ra record featuring Cohran). In Chicago, he was an early member of the AACM and recorded exceptional and exceedingly rare music with his group the Artistic Heritage Ensemble. At 85, with a musical career that began in the late 1940s, you would think he’d be comfortably retired, but geniuses it seems seldom retire. Instead he’s cut an album with 8 of his sons, one of my favorite contemporary groups, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Los Angeles got a taste of this earlier in the year courtesy of a monumental concert put on by Art Don’t Sleep, but now everyone can bear witness to this fantastic collaboration via this album on Honest Jon’s.
Recorded last year in Chicago, the album is simply described by Cohran as “my music, and their band.” That assessment rings true in comparison to other HBE work, as the band downplays their signature funk for more contemplative jazz oriented sounds. Of all the tracks on the record, “Spin” feels like the one that best connects the sound of Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Beginning with the alternating sounds of a strummed zither and blasts of the horns, the song quickly settles into an otherworldly mid tempo funky spiritual jazz vibe. In the notes Cohran relates this track to how “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.” After a career that has spanned 8 decades and produced 8 sons to carry on his legacy, I’m thankful that Cohran has not decided to rest, but continued to stay at work and stay in motion, giving us a few more gifts in the 7 compositions on this CD and hopefully more to come in future collaborations with family.