REVIEW OF JIM COHEN'S "PEDAL STEEL JAZZ"
by Scott Yanow
Published in L.A. Jazz Scene
Pedal Steel Jazz
The steel guitar has always been a rarity in jazz. While Roy Smeck recorded on the Hawaiian guitar in the 1920s and there have been occasional attempts to use the steel guitar in jazz (most notably by Buddy Emmons), the instrument is still primarily used in country music and Western swing.
In his career, Jim Cohen has played steel guitar in country, rock and pop groups while also performing an occasional jazz song. On Pedal Steel Jazz, he dives into the jazz world, interpreting a set of jazz standards with a fine rhythm section (pianist Frank Strauss, Steve Beskrone or Chico Huff on bass, and drummer Grant MacAvoy) with two guest appearances by guitarist Jimmy Bruno.
The most notable aspect to these performances of such songs as “I’ll Remember April,” “My Little Suede Shoes” and “Have You Met Miss Jones” is that listeners will not think of this set as a novelty or a rare chance to hear the steel guitar in jazz. Instead, one focuses on the quality of the excellent solos, Cohen’s occasional friendly vocals, and the swinging of the group as a whole. He manages to make his steel guitar a logical part of the music, a major accomplishment by itself.
Pedal Steel Jazz concludes with “Jimbeaux’s Blues,” a good excuse to gather together seven steel guitarists (Cohen plus Maurice Anderson, Randy Beavers, Chuck Campbell, Doug Jernigan, Lucky Oceans and Buck Reid) for some joyful jamming. Pedal Steel Jazz is recommended and available from www.cdbaby.com/jimcohen2 or iTunes.
-- Scott Yanow