Throughout his critically acclaimed recordings as a leader and as a collaborator with numerous leading jazz figures and world-class ensembles, Ryan Cohan has masterfully walked the line of writer and player, proving himself time and again to be a composer of rare vision as well as a highly versatile, powerfully expressive pianist.
Recognized for his “ingenuity and virtuosity” (Chicago Tribune), Cohan’s expansive body of work ranges from solo piano pieces to arrangements for symphony orchestra and scores for independent films. He has produced six albums of original compositions: Real World (Real World Music); Here and Now (Sirocco Jazz); One Sky (Motéma), named one of the year’s best recordings by the Chicago Tribune and a number of jazz publications; Another Look (Motéma), hailed as “a model for modern jazz piano albums” by ICON magazine; and The River (Motéma) which features Ryan’s sixty minute suite inspired by his travels in Africa. Described by JazzTimes as “Cohan’s most ambitious and important work to date”, The River was performed at Millennium Park in Chicago to a crowd of over 8,000 and the recording and live concert was selected for several prominent ‘Best of 2013′ music lists in national publications.
Scored for an eleven-piece chamber jazz ensemble, Cohan’s latest recording Originations (Origin Records) dynamically synthesizes Middle Eastern and other world music influences, classical compositional elements and improvisation. The project received unanimous critical praise on its release including being a Downbeat Magazine Editor’s Pick and was chosen a “Best Jazz Recording of 2020” by the Chicago Tribune and other prominent global publications.
Cohan has embarked upon multiple international tours representing the U.S. Department of State in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center. Leading his quartet, Cohan traveled across Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East performing and collaborating with local musicians with the mission of fostering empathy and connection between cultures through music.
A Chicago native, Cohan has worked with such jazz luminaries and elite large ensembles as Freddie Hubbard, Joe Locke, Andy Narell, Jon Faddis, Paquito D’Rivera, Kurt Elling, Gregory Porter, Victor Lewis, Bob Cranshaw, Jeff Hamilton, Steve Wilson, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, MusicNOW Ensemble, Orbert Davis’s Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, The Chicago Jazz Ensemble, The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra with Otis Clay and The Chicago Chamber Musicians among others. Both as a sideman and fronting his various ensembles, Cohan has performed at premier venues worldwide. He has collaborated extensively with Ramsey Lewis, contributing more than twenty compositions and arrangements to the NEA Jazz Master’s repertoire and penning the theme song for his nationally syndicated television series, The Legends of Jazz. Cohan provided the orchestral writing for master vibraphonist Joe Locke’s live concert recording, Wish Upon A Star (Motéma) featuring Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra, and he was commissioned to arrange music for The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra led by Tommy Smith.
In acknowledgment of his work thus far, Cohan has received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in composition, Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Music and Sound Design Fellowship, three New Jazz Works commissioning grants from Chamber Music America and The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Sundance Institute’s Interdisciplinary Grant, multiple Aaron Copland Recording Grants, Composer Assistance Award from New Music USA and two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships.
As an educator, Ryan held the position of Artist-in-Residence at The Guimarães Jazz Festival (PORTUGAL), The University of Louisville School of Music’s Jamie Aebersold Jazz Studies Program and Purdue Univeristy and has been on the music faculty at the University Of Illinois at Chicago, The Skidmore Jazz Institute in New York and was a teaching mentor for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. He has also worked extensively as an artist clinician at dozens of universities, high schools and other notable music programs locally, throughout the U.S and abroad.