Multi-instrumentalist David Bennett Cohen was born in New York City on August 4, 1942. (And a belated happy 73rd birthday to him!) He began studying piano when he was seven years old, and two years later he began to also play guitar. Today, he is an acclaimed master of both instruments.
Over the years, Cohen has played with a veritable who’s who of the blues and rock music world. To get the 900 pound gorilla in the room out of the way right up front, from 1965 to 1969 he was the original keyboardist for the legendary 1960’s rock-folk-blues group, Country Joe And The Fish, and he appeared on that band’s first three albums. After leaving Country Joe, he worked with Elvin Bishop, Mick Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, Huey Lewis, Jerry Garcia, Hubert Sumlin, and others. He also was a member of the band for the hit Broadway musical, “Rent.”
Cohen is still musically active today, both as a solo act and with a band called Former Members, whose members are, surprise, all former members of other famous bands.
Cohen has released three albums since the turn of the century, and the one I want to tell you about has the very apt name, “Cookin’ With Cohen.”
The personnel for this album are:
David Bennett Cohen, piano and guitar
Chris Carter, electric guitar
Tim Tindall, bass
Frank Colon, percussion
Kenny Soule, drums
“Cookin’ With Cohen” consists of twelve songs, almost all of which were written by Cohen. While there are some jazz influences, this is not a jazz album. What you will find in abundance is blues, rock, funk, and boogie woogie piano. And lots and lots of high energy, feet don’t fail me now music.
Speaking of boogie woogie, the disk opens with the title track, which is as good a boogie woogie piece as you’re ever going to find. The whole group jumps in at the first note, and if you don’t find your feet wanting to MOVE after half a minute, check your pulse brother, because you are dead!
“Cookin'” is followed by “The Ballad Of Ruby And Jasper.” This one is a little slower-paced at first, but Carter’s guitar work and Cohen’s honky tonk piano lay down a line that’s hard to resist.
“We All Want Peace In Our Time” is up next. This is another great boogie woogie number, with Cohen doing the vocal as well as piano. This song’s message is no secret, and Cohen’s deceptively simple lyrics express it well enough.
I don’t really know what to say about the next song, “Like Stars After Sunrise.” It is an energetic instrumental number that effectively showcases Cohen’s entertaining piano style. Carter gets a quick solo on guitar that almost seemed like an afterthought, but even that still sounds great.
The next song definitely falls into the category of novelty songs. The title is simply “Booze,” and the lyrics make plain that the subject is actually an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon. While that may sound tragic, Cohen presents it in a manner that is, dare I say it, entertaining enough as long as you don’t over-think it. Musically this piece is a blues with a nice, upbeat tempo that belies the somewhat sobering (sorry!) subject of the lyrics. The politically correct among us might frown, but I have to say that, all in all, this is a great little song.
“Crawfish Royale” is up next, and coming after the social consciousness-raising song “Booze,” “Crawfish” is a very welcome piece that says absolutely nothing of lasting importance, and says it with enthusiasm. Like most of the rest of this album, this is a spirited blues melody of the sort that a live audience would be on their feet for. In fact, when the song ended, I half expected to hear cheers and applause.
The remaining songs on “Cookin’ With Cohen” are all superb, and it kills me that I don’t have time to tell you about all of them. When trying to decide which one to end this with, I decided to go with the song that brought a smile to my face the first time I heard it, the strange and wonderful “Mercury Blues.” Rather than telling the story of a fallen alcoholic, this one is a bluesy vocal about a guy who loves Mercury cars and who is determined to buy one. Call it simple, call it shallow, call it meaningless or whatever pejorative you care to apply to it. Frankly, I don’t really care. I like the damn song, and I think there is a good chance that you just might like it also.
So now I’ve decided there is one more song I have to tell you about before I go, and that is “The Cool Fool.” No, this is not a sequel to “Mercury Blues,” and shame on you for even thinking that. “The Cool Fool” is an electric blues instrumental piece with a great sound that continues Cohen’s blending of rock and blues and a hint of jazz if you listen closely.
There you have it. “Cookin’ With Cohen” is hardly a jazz album. Cohen has done a masterful job of amalgamating funk and blues and rock, but what little jazz there is here is blended so deeply into the mix that most jazz purists probably won’t care for the result. Unless they are open minded enough to say party music is party music.
For those who love blues and rock and funk, this album will be nirvana. I was not able to find any of the tracks from “Cookin’ With Cohen” on YouTube, but there are Cohen songs galore there to be found. Give a listen to the one below, which is Cohen performing “Cookin'” at his induction into the New York Blues Hall Of Fame in 2014.
Do I think you will find David Bennett Cohen’s “Cookin’ With Cohen” to be an outstanding addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night? You bet I do!
To learn more about David Bennett Cohen and his music, here are some links to keep you busy for a while:
A good place to start would be his web site, although it does not appear to have been updated recently. There is a nice bio of him on Wikipedia. ReverbNation has some info about him and three of his songs you can stream. Cohen plays Yamaha pianos, and they have a nice write-up about him on their web site. And in the position of being both last and least, allmusic.com also has a short bio of him.
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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