June 14, 2024

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A major force in the Los Angeles jazz community since the late 1990s, pianist-composer George Kahn: Video

07.01. – Happy Birthday !!! A major force in the Los Angeles jazz community since the late 1990s, pianist-composer George Kahn is working on his 9th album, set for release at the end of 2017. The new album will feature a jazz trio for George, Alex Acuna on drums and Lyman Medeiros on bass.

Think Ramsey Lewis Trio, or Gene Harris, or Vince Guaraldi “People always respond to songs they know,” says George Kahn. “Thinking about it, I realized that I’d always wanted to create jazz versions of tunes that one does not normally hear in a jazz setting. Rather than perform ‘Stella By Starlight’ or ‘Autumn Leaves’ yet again, I thought it would be fun to play songs that are more current, songs by Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd or Adele

George Kahn grew up in New Rochelle, New York, studying classical music from the age of nine. He began composing while in high school and was always interested in improvisational music, studying the music of Charles Ives, John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen as a Composition Major at Brandeis University. He did not start to explore jazz until his last years at Brandeis, being particularly affected by John Coltrane’s Kulu Se Mama, which opened his mind towards what was possible in music. After graduating, he lived on Cape Cod for a couple of years, did some gigs in Boston, toured the East Coast with a disco band and eventually moved to California in 1976.

“I decided that it was time to stop saying I was a musician and actually be one.” Kahn worked in an improvising New Age group for a few years, studied arranging with Spud Murphy, and performed in a variety of settings. In the latter half of the 1990s he made his move, forming the Playing Music label and Sudhana Music Publishing. Since then he has released six CDs.

“Each of my albums features a wide range of styles which are tied together by my compositional and playing style. For my debut Out of Time, I decided to shoot high and get my dream drummer, Billy Higgins. After I talked him into working on the project, he recommended bassist Richard Reid. Everything fell into place after I got Billy. I was surprised to find out that he did not read music. But by the second run through, he had every song down. That guy had the biggest ears in the world, he was just phenomenal.”

Next out was Conscious Dreams, an un-issued recording from 1985 that is more in the New Age vein, featuring George Kahn on all of the instruments. Freedom Vessel mostly has Kahn in a trio with the late bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Joe LaBarbera, plus guest spots for altoist Eric Marienthal and Bobby Rodriguez. The emphasis is on the pianist’s infectious originals. Midnight Brew uses Kahn’s working trio of the time (with bassist Karl Vincent and drummer M.B. Gordy) as the nucleus behind such all-stars as Marienthal, Justo Almario, guitarist Larry Koonse, trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez and singer Tierney Sutton. The Kahn-Bromberg-Acuna trio appears for the first time on …Compared To What?, assisted by Almario, Marienthal, John Fumo and guitarist Ira Ingber.

“Naturally I like to think that each CD is stronger than the previous one,” says the pianist. “It is like having building blocks, with each new project building on the ones of the past. One of Keith Jarrett’s focuses is to be riff free, not constantly playing the riffs and phrases that you already know and instead concentrate on flowing improvisation. That is my aim in my playing.”

George Kahn, who performs frequently in the Los Angeles area, including an annual Jazz For The Homeless fundraiser for the charity PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) and benefits for public school music programs, looks forward to touring again in the near future. “My main goal is to share my music with as many people as possible. I believe that there is a great deal of life in West Coast Jazz. It is not only viable but has the opportunity and ability to broaden its base. I purposely picked out songs that might get a John Mayer fan who has never heard a jazz album, to possibly explore this CD because they know some of the songs.

Awards

2008 Chuck Niles Bebop Award for instrumental jazz, Temecula valley International Jazz Festival.

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