Jim was born in New York City and raised on Long Island. He started playing acoustic guitar at age 12, inspired by the British Invasion. By high school, his tastes ran to country/rock music such as Buffalo Springfield, Poco, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Linda Ronstadt, etc. Through this music, Jim became exposed to, and fell hopelessly in love with, the sound of the pedal steel guitar which has led him into a wide range of music incuding jazz, pop, country, rock and folk. Jim has recorded 5 CDs as leader and 2 with his Philadelphia-based Texas swing band, Beats Walkin'.
After Jim moved to St. Louis, MO to attend college at Washington University, he somehow stumbled into the late DeWitt Scott ("Scotty"), who ran a tiny, but influential steel guitar studio on the outskirts of town. Scotty became Jim's first steel guitar teacher and sold him his first steel guitar (a 1940's-model Gibson Electraharp, with 8 strings and 6-pedals coming off the side: what a contraption!) While in college, Jim earned some pocket money by playing steel for a country-rock band called "Whitehorse". Among other places, they used to play regularly at Chuck Berry's private club on his home grounds in Wentzville, MO.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Jim continued to play, on and off, working in a variety of jazz, country and swing bands in Missouri, Florida and Pennsylvania. During that time, he was fortunate to have the opportunity to study steel guitar with many of the world's finest players, including Buddy Emmons, Jeff Newman, Paul Franklin, Maurice Anderson, Bobby Black, Winnie Winston, and others.
In 1994, influenced by hearing a Junior Brown concert while on a visit to Austin, Jim decided to form his own western swing band, Beats Walkin'. That group remains together to this date and performs widely around the Philadelphia, PA area. Their debut album, Western Omelette was released in 1997. In 2002, they released their second CD, a live recording entitled Bop-a-billy Swing!, to critical acclaim.
In recent years, Jim has been much in demand for recording sessions around the Philadelphia area, and as a solo performer at numerous steel guitar shows around the country and in Europe where he continues to thrill audiences with his unique style and arrangements of jazz, pop and classic rock tunes.
In 2000, Jim teamed up with producer, arranger and keyboardist extraordinaire, Dan Kleiman, to produce his first solo CD. The disc, aptly entitled "Finally Here", was released to critical acclaim and showcases the many styles and genres of music that Jim loves to play on steel guitar. With Dan's influence, however, this is much more than just another "steel guitar recording". We think you'll find it to be wonderful listening, no matter what kind of music you enjoy.
On his second CD, "Four to the Bar", Jim continues his tradition of cherry-picking great melodies from his youth, as well as wonderful jazz standards, and uses some of the top Philadelphia-area jazz musicians on this disc. Once again, producer Dan Kleiman has "set the table", creating a wonderful backdrop for Jim's unique steel guitar stylings. If you liked "Finally Here", you're sure to love "Four to the Bar".
In 2006, Jim released "Home, James", his tribute to the British Rock invasion of the 1960s. As with his previous discs, "Home, James" has enjoyed wide popular appeal and was reviewed in the Winter 2007 issue of "Fretboard Journal" where it was written, "In steel guitar circles, Cohen is noted for his bebop chops, but 'Home, James' largely forgoes the fireworks in favor of arrangements that focus on the strong melodies of a string of British Invasion classics." Check out 'Home, James' for great tunes like, 'A Whiter Shade of Pale', 'Bus Stop', 'As Tears Go By', 'Time of the Season' and more.
In 2008, Jim released his first CD devoted to exclusively to country music - a genre he had studiously avoided in the past - only because, as a steel guitarist, it was expected of him to play country music. Entitled "Cohen Goin' Country", Jim explored the classic country repertoire with songs written or popularized by artists including Merle Haggard, George Jones, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, The Everly Brothers, Skeeter Davis, Linda Ronstadt and others.
Jim's latest release, "Pedal Steel Jazz" delves into the jazz standards repertoire and features some of the very best Philadelphia-area jazz musicians, including Frank Strauss (keys), Chico Huff (electric bass), Steve Beskrone (upright bass), and Grant MacAvoy (drums). In addition, legendary jazz guitarist, Jimmy Bruno, appears on two tunes. To sweeten the pot even further, six of the world's greatest steel guitarists appear on the final track, an original jazz-blues Jim wrote, called "Jimbeaux's Blues"; guests soloists include the late Maurice Anderson (formerly with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys), Lucky Oceans (founding member/steel guitarist, Asleep at the Wheel), Randy Beavers (Leann Womack), Buck Reid (Lyle Lovett), Doug Jernigan (Nashville steel guitar legend), and Chuck Campbell (The Campbell Brothers). This album is sure to change the perception of pedal steel as a complete musical instrument, capable of jazz or any other genre of music, when in the right hands.
Since 2017, Jim has been a founding member of the premier Linda Ronstadt tribute band in the world, Ronstadt Revue, fronted by the remarkable vocalist, Gesenia Erolin. This band brings him full circle to his original country-rock roots and allows for an expanded role for the steel guitar into other genres as well, such as jazz, Mariachi, Cajun, and Great American Songbook standards. More info and the band's schedule can be found at www.RonstadtRevue.com