Marc Cohn

Listening Booth: 1970 PhotosWith Rebecca Pidgeon opening
The Center for the Arts presents
Friday, January 25, 8:00PM

“Cohn has one of rock’s most soulful croons a rich, immediately recognizable tenor…” – Rolling Stone

Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Marc Cohn has been obsessed with pop music for as long as he can remember: I was hooked from day one. My older brother had a band that rehearsed in our basement, so I heard Bacharach, The Beatles, Ray Charles, and Motown coming up through the floorboards from the time I was six years old. By the time I was eleven though, the Beatles were breaking up and singer-songwriters were breaking through, and a lot of that music really resonated for me.

One Sunday morning in the early ’70s, a youngster in Cleveland caught an earful of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and his life was never to be the same. That kid was Marc Cohn, and soon after that morning, he bought everything Morrison had released to date, along with works by Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. Soon thereafter, an older brother taught him a Ray Charles tune on the piano, and he joined a cover band, Doanbrook Hotel. He sang with them from junior high school until he left home for Oberlin College. All the while, Cohn learned to play guitar and was dabbling with the craft of songwriting, since the cover band played everything but the kind of songs he loved so dearly.

At Oberlin, Cohn taught himself to play piano and a lasting bond formed. After transferring to UCLA, he hit the Los Angeles coffeehouse circuit. Cohn then made yet another move, this time to New York to be with his fiance, and he formed the Supreme Court, a 14-piece band complete with horn section. Putting unusual spins on popular tunes, the band gained a following that included Carly Simon, who recommended they play at Caroline Kennedy’s wedding. That gig seemed like a good stopping point, and Cohn left the band to focus once again on his own songs.

He sent a piano/vocal demo to Atlantic Records and landed a deal, and from there he co-produced his debut with Ben Wisch with some assistance from John Leventhal. What emerged was a beautifully tasteful and intelligent album that included the hit Walking in Memphis and won Cohn a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The Rainy Season followed in 1993 and was a thematic complement to Cohn’s debut. Folks like David Crosby and Graham Nash stepped up to the mike to lend their vocal support to this soulful new talent.

Cohn returned in 1998 with the release of Burning the Daze. Another studio hiatus followed, during which he released an independent live compilation. Cohn was also shot in the head when victimized by an attempted carjacking — thankfully, the musician recovered, and he subsequently released Join the Parade in 2007.

In 2010, Cohn returned with Listening Booth: 1970, a collection of cover songs that were originally released during the titular year. In addition to crossing genres from rock to soul to folk and pop, it features vocal performances from India.Arie, Jim Lauderdale, Aimee Mann, and Kristina Train on a third of the album’s dozen tracks.

Listening Booth:1970 ultimately brings Cohn back to where he began– writing songs like Walking In Memphis which spoke so eloquently about the transforming, healing power of music. Like that hit single, Listening Booth: 1970 is really the soundtrack to his life.

As Cohn reflects, It seemed like such a natural progression for me to do a record like this because, if you\’ve been following my records from my first single, I have been paying tribute to musicians through my writing all along, from Al Green to Elvis to Levon Helm to Charlie Christian – it\’s really been a touchstone for me.  Now I\’m just repaying a debt of gratitude to the artists who\’ve changed my life and taught me how to do what I do.”


Nuanced and assured Rebecca Pidgeon is one of those rare singers who conveys emotion purely – Rolling Stone Magazine

Pidgeon’s quirky song writing and warm, burnished vocal tone have won over an impressive roster of supporters – Daily Variety

She’s been recording albums for more than 20 years, but Rebecca Pidgeon had a creative breakthrough as she began working on the music for Slingshot, her compelling sixth solo effort.

I reached a point where I had to really make a 100% commitment to it, instead of saying this is something I do that’s not acting, says Pidgeon. I had to own it.

Pidgeon does, indeed, own it on Slingshot, an intoxicatingly adult pop album that explores the arc of love from desire to longing to despair. I love the concept slingshot. It’s such an unusual word to have in a love song, she says of the title track: I’m the rock and you’re the slingshot and you sling me into the realm of joy’.

Other standouts include the yearning Sweet Hand of Mercy, that recalls Joan Osborne; the electric, driving Disintegration Man, the jazzy, noir-ish A Lonely Place, and the plaintive Baby Please Come Home.

The deeply melodic Slingshot marks the third time Pidgeon and Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux, Herbie Hancock) have collaborated. The two made an often intentionally quiet album that compellingly beckons the listener to lean in and pay attention. There’s simplicity and air and space to it, she says. That was a conscious decision.

In fact, Pidgeon wrote 35 songs for Slingshot, more than she has ever written for an album before. Working primarily with Klein and David Batteau on the kernel of the record, Pidgeon also wrote with Timothy Bracy and acclaimed singer/songwriter, Freedy Johnston including the deceptively jaunty, upbeat I Love No One. I loved writing with Freedy, she says. We [both] tend to like stories about being rather bleak. It seems more interesting.

There were some realizations along the way. On swampy Disintegration Man, Pidgeon and Klein set out to make a basic, dumb rock song, before realizing it\’s not as easy as it seems, Pidgeon laughs. Since I’ve been learning guitar theory, I’ve been looking at all these rock stars who have their tattoos and drugs and I’m like, You don’t kid me! You sat in your room as a teen for hours and hours practicing your scales’.

Slingshot includes a co-production between Pidgeon and her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/film director David Mamet. The aching, largely a cappella Baby Please Come Home showcases Pidgeon’s vulnerable, intimate vocals. It’s a humbling experience writing with my husband, she said, But he\’s good looking so I subject myself to it.

The lone cover on the set is a stirring, poignant version of Warren Zevon\’s Searching For A Heart. The chord progression first attracted Pidgeon. Then I was drawn in by the lyrics. It’s so enigmatic, she says. It sounds like it’s sparse, but it’s so complex. Every time I sing the song, I get something different out of it.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2011, Pidgeon has headlined Wine, Women & Song, a series of concerts that take place at female-run vineyards coordinated by wine company Women of the Vine. These women are entrepreneurs and artists, she says. The concerts with the wine tastings have been very lovely.

Pidgeon has also shared stages with such artists as Aimee Mann, Madeleine Peyroux, Jeffrey Gaines, Peter Himmelman, and Keb Mo, and joined founders Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young at the 2011 edition of Farm Aid, Aug. 13.

She looks forward to performing selections from Slingshot live, though as mother of a 12-year and 16-year old, she limits her time away from her Los Angeles home. I [tour] in bursts, she said. I do it for a week or two and then I have to get back. I’m not away for six months.

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate continues to juggle her musical efforts with her extremely successful acting career. She recently appeared in the film Red, alongside Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman. Up next is an HBO film about record producer Phil Spector and his recent murder trial. Pidgeon stars with Al Pacino and Helen Mirren in the film directed and written by Mamet. And she, of course, is the voice of The Pear in the hugely successful webisodes, Home Grown.

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