In the outer reaches of the musical galaxies that swirl around us you will find a lump of rock from which came a man named Phil Cohran. Though he inhabited the Windy City for most of his life he was born in the deep delta blues lands of Mississippi. Stints of learning and disruptive discourse with a man, universally accepted as being a resident of Saturn, and who went by the name of Sun Ra, led Mr Cohran to take up an interest in composing music. He played it too, often after he’s composed and for hours on end.
Restless he was and travelled the flat lands of the United States from Kansas City to New York island. He did apprenticeships with Jay McShann and formed his own groups and of course played the trumpet (among other instruments of familiar and not so familiar description) in the Arkestra of Sun Ra.
He was bitten by the bug of know-no-bounds creativity and in the early part of the 1960s established a group made up of blues session players and called them the Artistic Heritage Ensemble. Today we share some of this amazingly straight-laced but exciting music. Cohran fills the gap, someone said between Sun Ra and Earth Wind and Fire. And when he wasn’t composing wonderful sounds and releasing them to an audience of nil on his own record label, he was a voracious reader, critical philosopher and community educational activist. Just what you would expect from such a man.
Few people know of this man but they should. Here is a good article/interview with him from a dozen years or more ago. Relish this music which will sound familiar in some ways (get a load of the metallic twang so popularized by recent world-music heroes Konono No.1) but then recall these were composed and performed and recorded nearly 50 years ago!
The African Look
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
New Frankiphone Blues