From the University of New Hampshire (Nov, 2017):
Pedal steel guitarist Jim Cohen visits
Adrienne Perron, Staff Writer•
Thu, Nov 16, 2017
Philadelphia-based and internationally acclaimed pedal steel guitarist Jim Cohen came out this past Monday night, Nov. 13, to play jazz standards as rendered on the electric and steel guitar in the Bratton Recital Hall of the Paul Creative Arts Center (PCAC). He was joined by three members of the UNH Department of Music, Bronek Bronislaw? Suchanek, David Newsam and Les Harris Jr. on the bass, guitar and drums respectively. His performance drew students of the music department, members of the community and a few fellow pedal steel guitarists to its audience.
According to Cohen’s website, he was born in New York City and raised on Long Island. He started playing acoustic guitar at 12 and by high school, he became interested in country and rock music. Through country and rock, Cohen became exposed to the sound of the pedal steel guitar and fell in love.
"Rusty Young was my first inspiration for playing steel guitar,” Cohen stated. "I grew up listening to Poco, that was the door I came in.”
The instrument has led him into a wide range of music such as jazz, pop, country, rock and folk. Jim has recorded five CDs with his Philadelphia-based Texas swing band, Beats Walkin.’ His latest release "Pedal Steel Jazz” (2012) features some of the best Philadelphia-area jazz musicians such as Frank Strauss, Steve Beskrone, Chico Huff and Grant MacAvoy.
Cohen stated that at conventions, he enjoys playing styles of music on the pedal steel guitar that are different than the "Hawaiian” and "country” kinds of music that most people associate with the instrument.
"I like to be different… I play this kind of material and I mix it up with some Pop stuff… always different than what everyone else is doing, I don’t like competition,” Cohen said.
Toward the end of his performance, Cohen and the other instrumentalists took a break from playing music so that Cohen could talk about the structure of the unique pedal steel guitar. He explained how the instrument has eight pedals, two necks, 10 strings and five knee levers that are used to produce the instrument’s sound. Cohen also explained that it is not the instrument itself that is made of steel, but it is the "tone bar,” which is detached from the instrument, but utilized on the strings to help produce chord changes.
Cohen stated that he and the musicians joining him played for the first time all together about an hour and a half before the performance.
"It came out,” he stated. "It’s a great pleasure to play with these guys… I don’t get to play with players of this caliber every day.”
First-year student Damian Bernardini, a jazz guitar major from Londonderry, New Hampshire and first-year student Landon Buell, engineering and physics major from northern New Jersey, stated that they hadn’t heard much about the pedal steel guitar before Cohen came to campus. They found the performance to be very impressive.
"I’ve never actually seen [the pedal steel guitar] being used, it was very cool to see in that kind of environment,” Buell stated.
Cohen expressed that his favorite part of playing the pedal steel guitar is the emotion that the instrument elicits.
"One of the things I like best is surprising people at how much of a good jazz instrument it can be… I don’t want to give people what they are expecting from the instrument,” Cohen said.
From noted jazz guitarist, Robert Conti, commenting on Jim's 2012 CD, "Pedal Steel Jazz":
"Jim... You really did a great job on that project, as your playing is absolutely superb on every track... I must say that you somehow managed to capture, in your own way, that precision smooth sound of Johnny Smith - Well Done!!!"
- Robert Conti, Las Vegas, NV
REVIEWS of "PEDAL STEEL JAZZ" (2012) FROM OTHER STEEL GUITAR PROS...
"Stellar! This is my favourite recording of Jim's. The playing is stellar and the production is beautiful. All the tones are gathered to make a memorable CD. Merci beaucoup!" - Bob Taillefer
"One word = Killer! "- Tony Glassman
"A Treat! For the past few weeks I’ve been listening to, and really enjoying, Jim Cohen’s “Pedal Steel Jazz” album. At times it reminds me of the Buddy Emmons black album (pristine quality of production and a sound that makes me want to listen again and again), and at other times it harkens me back to the 70’s when I used to wear out needles on Curly Chalker and Maurice Anderson records. Jim’s playing is inventive and unfailingly tasteful, and the other musicians on the album play really well. A special treat was listening to “Jimbeaux’s Blues” with its who’s who (a la Jimmy Bryant?) of great steel guitarists. This disc is a treat for, not only steel guitarists, but all music listeners." - Susan Alcorn
"A wonderful creation that hasn't left my CD player since I received the disc." - Herb Steiner
"Absolutely as good as it gets !!!! The steel work on the CD is impeccable. What a great player. Jim's choice of musicians to record with was a "home run" also. These guys are in the "best of the best" category. If you haven't heard this CD, do yourself a favor and get it; you'll not be disappointed. I've listened to it many times and it get's better each time." - Roy Rosetta
"A truly GREAT recording - I love this thing to death! This will remain up there with my favorite Buddy Emmons albums forever." - Jim Hollingsworth
"A terrific album. Great tunes, creative arrangements and fabulous playing by Jim, all the band members, and the guest steelers. Kudos to all!" - Bob Stone
"This one is as good as it gets. A top quality jazz product." - Bill Cunningham
"What a great job Jim did putting this material together and enlisting such a solid lineup. I've been disappointed with steel jazz recordings in the past and one of the biggest reasons has always been the rhythm sections. Kudos to Jim for doing it right.
The tone and playing is excellent on this record. Jim has a great touch and spices up his lines nicely with subtle rhythmic enhancements (8th note triplets, etc.), giving the lines a great swinging feel. His comping is very nice, too, never getting in the way of the piano player (another potential disaster in the wrong hands). A solid recording which will be talked about for a good long while." - Mike Neer
"The album is called "Pedal Steel Jazz" and it totally is. This is not western swing, or cocktail jazz, it's straight ahead listenable jazz. Jim plays beautifully, his tone is excellent, and the album sounds fresh and assured. His intonation is spot on, which is really saying something considering he's playing with a piano and upright bass. Speaking of, his musicians are top notch including east coast legendary guitarist Jimmy Bruno. If you like jazz even a wee bit, I think you'll enjoy this album." - Joe Goldmark
From "Twentieth Century Guitar" Magazine (Oct 2001):
"Among the finest instrumental pedal steel CDs released in the past year is Finally Here (on Steel Guitar Forum Records) from PA.-based Jim Cohen. A long time pedal steel enthusiast and the leader of Philadelphia's premier Western Swing band, Beats Walkin’, Cohen has arranged a number of jazz and pop standards for his debut solo CD including new covers of the A.C. Jobim classic "Desafinado", the Max Steiner classic "Tara's Theme" (a.k.a "Gone With The Wind") and a sterling cover of "Our Day Will Come", the early '60s Top 40 hit from Ruby & The Romantics. Superbly produced by Dan Kleiman and featuring Cohen supported by a solid crew, Finally Here is certainly one of the best new steel guitar albums of 2000."
Hear from the pro's:
"A first class and exceptionally well done CD from front to back."
- Maurice Anderson, Steel guitarist, formerly with Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys
"A great CD. I played it over and over."
- John Hughey, Steel guitarist for Vince Gill and, formerly, Conway Twitty
"Jim has a world-class touch. He may be one of the most underrated steel guitarists out there right now."
- Jeff Newman, Steel guitarist and world's foremost steel guitar instructor, Nashville, TN
"This CD is great. I have heard Jim play at several shows, and I have been aware for sometime that he is a fine player. This CD just proves it! I do suggest it for your collection."
- Herby Wallace, Steel guitarist, formerly with Donna Fargo, Con Hunley, and others, Sevierville, TN
"If we ever have a vote at the International Steel Guitar Convention for the best CD of the year, I would vote for this one!"
- DeWitt ('Scotty') Scott, Chairman, International Steel Guitar Convention, St. Louis, MO.
"Superb! What a great CD, and so masterfully performed by a great steel guitar player. All of the arrangements are done with great taste and the musicians on the project were masters of their instruments."
- Roy Rosetta, Master keyboard musician, Dallas, Texas
"This is one fine album!"
- Neil Flanz, Steel guitarist, formerly with Gram Parsons
"Awesome- just awesome. In my humble opinion, this CD is one of the best steel guitar recordings ever. As far as I'm concerned, this is the steel guitar album of the year. Five stars!"
- Mike Perlowin, Studio steel guitarist, Los Angeles, CA
"A great album by a great player. A wonderful debut album."
- Herb Steiner, Steel guitarist for Johnny Bush, Austin, TX
"This is the best picking, tone, arrangements, and backup musicians I've heard in a long time, maybe ever!"
- Jim Smith, Steel guitarist, co-designer of Dekley steel guitars, Dallas, TX
"A wonderful album. The arrangements, the other players and the overall mix are all excellent."
- Mike Ihde, Guitar Faculty and steel guitarist, Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
"A great CD! It's one thing to hear a player as a sideman, it's another to hear a player take center stage (and Jim took it like Grant took Richmond)"
- Dayna Wills, Vocalist, Member Western Swing Hall of Fame, Stockton, CA