Rachael Cohen Quartet (The Oxford, Kentish Town. 9 March 2020. Review by Brian Blain)
A trip to one of the regular Monday nights at The Oxford in Kentish Town last week to catch a new trumpet name, James Copus, was frustrated by a nasty injury to his lip. Get well soon. No problem, because his dep., altoist Rachael Cohen, was little short of sensational. The way all four musicians, Conor Chaplin (bass), Tom Cawley (piano) and French drummer Marc Michel gelled together from the opener, a blistering Trane-y kind of theme to get the fingers working and checking out the sound in the room, displayed a level of empathy, and sheer pleasure at playing together,that was present all through two glorious sets.
Rachael Cohen. Publicity Photo by Carl Ulrich Ross-Mohl
Michel was obviously of the Paul Clarvis school of mini kittery, with just one snare,a ride cymbal, hi hat and small bass drum, yet his power and dynamic range was just perfect for this small band set up. His dovetailing with Chaplin, ‘everyone’s’ new bassist of choice, to provide rhythmic complexity around a firm, singing central pulse,underpinned by Cawley’s perfectly interjected chordal comps made for a wonderful rhythm section; I imagine Rachael thought she had arrived in free swing heaven. New to me she showed a firm grip right from the off, with a strong hard edged sound which was often contrasted,in some of her longer improvisations, with softer tones in the lower register. Her awareness of dynamics in her range of volume was frequently a subtle part of her vocabulary, an essential element in a style that can easily become relentless in its quest for excitement. There was variety in some of the themes; Ferde Grofé’s On The Trail, and Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz don’t get pulled out too often. But it was the closer, a headlong My Shining Hour, one of Coltranes favourites, that sent us home on that cloud of jazz serendipity which is why we joined in the first place. So let’s hear it for guitarist Will Arnold Forster for reviving a great tradition at The Oxford following on from ten memorable years organised by tenor extraordinaire George Crowley.