Magazine article International Musician

Dedicated to Lyricizing Jazz

Magazine article International Musician

Dedicated to Lyricizing Jazz

Article excerpt

Pianist Jeffrey Todd Cohen of Local 802 (New York City) is passionate about transcribing the recordings of jazz icons like Oscar Peterson, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Phineas Newborn Jr., and J.J. Johnson. It all started when Cohen was a teenager trying to learn to compose. He thought of transcribing Peterson as a way to get inside the head of the pianist and composer and improve his improvisational skills.

"I was trying to learn how to improvise by following Oscar Petersons logic," explains Cohen. For many tunes he has transcribed the complete recording, including all of the solos.

Eager to also improve his lyric writing skills, Cohen began putting lyrics to some of the songs he had transcribed. "It started out as an exercise and became more like an entity in itself-this amazing project that is so important to so many musicians," he says.

When Cohen sets out to put lyrics to a tune he says it's not always easy. "I may have limited initial ideas, but if they seem exhausted, I'll find myself researching the title," he explains.

For example, for Lee Morgan's "Totem Pole," Cohen pored through library books on totem poles. "I found a ?Legend of the Eagle and the Chief', which made a great second verse and a way of retitling the song."

For Wayne Shorter's "Wild Flower," which eventually became Cohen's "Little Bellflower," he studied a book on wild flower lore. When it came time to put lyric to the Lee Morgan tune "Morgan the Pirate" Cohen says he watched an old 1930s Captain Kidd movie over and over for an entire weekend to find inspiration. …

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