David Bennett Cohen – Bittersweet EP
At first, I thought this set was going to be a hokey-pokey nostalgic trip with old-fashioned hippie music. I was wrong.
This CD starts off with an instrumental that summons up musical breaks & intros that are more familiar with the likes of the Grateful Dead, Seatrain & Goose Creek Symphony. But here’s why.
Brooklyn-born David Bennett Cohen a musician for more than 60 years (a classically trained pianist/ boogie-woogie aficionado). Was a founding member/keyboardist of the original Berkeley, CA psychedelic counterculture band Country Joe & the Fish (circa 1965) with its satire & dark humor. That band became one of the most influential of the era. That’s credibility.
On this new EP, Cohen plays piano & sings. He also plays guitar, but on this project that duty has fallen to New York’s Arthur Neilson (Shemekia Copeland/Poppa Chubby) & New York Blues Hall of Famer David “Doc” French – both sparkle.
The music may be a little 60s oriented, but Cohen & his cohorts effectively update the arrangements & showcase to replicate the spirit with ear-caressing expertise.
Produced by David who has played with everyone from The Blues Project (he was a member), Tim Hardin, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Michael Bloomfield, Bob Weir & many others. On Bittersweet – a 6 song 22-minute EP (Drops June 3–Independent) he maintains the groove.
On “Booze,” he summons the Country Joe affection for sing-along happy melodies on his own terms with its roots in New Orleans saloons.
Even instrumentals like “Afterglow,” inhabit that world of Woodstock, Laurel Canyon, the desert, Haight-Ashbury, and Greenwich Village with well-cultivated melodic lines sure to glow in the dark in a big easy chair or wrapped up warm in an old American flag.
Also playing with Mr. Cohen are Arno Hecht (saxes), Heather Hardy (violin), Fred Walcott (percussion), Roy Blumenfeld (drums), Tim Tindall (bass) & background vocals by David with Brent McLachlan, Bil Kurtz & anyone else who was hanging around.
There are light moments like “Hot Chocolate,” sung in as a hippie-version & cousin to a jazz standard “Salt Peanuts.” It works well. David doesn’t pour on the nostalgia heavily either. Many songs are stand-alone wonderfully played pieces in the here & now.
The bottom line is that all are supposed to generate a good time feeling & they do. These pieces are not novelty songs in the truest sense, but they do profess to have humor.
The instrumental “Bittersweet,” has sad violin textures & bright piano lines. A nice interlude that would’ve been better placed between the 6 songs. I’m looking forward to a bigger LP by Mr. Cohen – his expertise shines on each song. I have no clue why such a talented guy waited this long to issue something of his own.