Ryan Cohan




This one instantly passes the hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck test – that slightly creepy chill, not unlike the first waft of cool night air following a hot day in the desert. After a Jewish upbringing Chicago-based pianist/composer Ryan Cohan only reconnected with his estranged Arab father and the paternal side of his family as an adult. Cue an epiphany – one that saw Cohan set about reconciling the two sides of his ancestry in music. So Jewish and Arabic threads and patterns intermingle and leap from the surface of a fabric that is essentially jazzy in texture.

The upshot is music of sudden contrasts, where a blazing trumpet solo (Tito Carrillo) can suddenly give way to a pizzicato figure from the Kaia String Quartet. Many of the intricately arranged pieces (for strings, three horns, rhythm section and Omar Musfi’s rather underemphasised Middle Eastern percussion), are permeated by a deep, midnight-blue sadness, sometimes with brighter emotions flaring up like shooting stars. A dash more reverb across the mix would have heightened the sense of space and drama, but this more intimate recording quality also works enough well when the music is less expansive.