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Wednesday, May 25

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Concert Tue Aug 12 2008

Kelan Phil Cohran Pays Tribute to Sun Ra

Kelan, Spiritual Journey (web).jpgKelan Phil Cohran is Chicago's resident musical shaman. His musical history runs the gamut of Chicago experimental music, having been a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the founder of the legendary Afro-Arts Theater run in the late 60s, and leader of the band that spawned Earth Wind & Fire and The Pharoahs from its ranks.

In addition to his musical progeny, Cohran has also been prolific in his own familial reproduction, and a group of his sons make up the members of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, a band that got its start playing on the streets of Chicago, eventually moving to New York, and now enjoys gigs playing with hip hop artists like Mos Def.

One of Cohran's early and strongest influences was Sonny Blount, better known as Sun Ra, and he played in Sun Ra's early band, undoubtedly soaking up Ra's intergalactic vibes.

Cohran pays tribute to Sun Ra's musical universe this Thursday at Millennium Park in a concert that will bring his sons' Hypnotic Brass Ensemble back to Chicago to perform. In addition, the venerable Robert Irving III, Miles Davis' former musical director and keyboardist, will be the musical director of the concert.

The concert itself promises to entertain musically as well as visually, with an array of dancers, singers, and performers involved. To say it will be a spectacle might be an understatement, and I have a feeling you'll have to come to Millennium Park to see/hear it to believe it.

Leading up to the concert, the Great Black Music Project produced a video and audio podcast for your previewing pleasure. The video is in three parts: , Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. The audio podcast is available here.

Kelan Phil Cohran and the Legacy of Sun Ra, Thursday, August 14th, 6:30 PM, Millennium Park, FREE.

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Tim Moran / August 15, 2008 6:31 PM

This show seemed to have a great deal of promise-
reportedly 50+ Dancers, Singers, and Instrumentalists were slated to appear.The reality,however,was that the concert was a letdown.For one thing,how can one put on a Tribute to Sun Ra and play only ONE of his tunes? When one thinks of Sun Ra,one thinks of sonically adventurous compositions and an outlandish stage presence.Ra was amusical Adventurer of the highest order.Kelan Phil Cohran's tunes,however, were
rather static,many of them based around One-Chord vamps in the rhythm section(admittedly
enhanced by some fairly funky horn lines by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)These tunes simply did not go anywhere,musically speaking.Visually, the show
was great-there was always something to look at- (though the dancers, with their Cardboard Circles
held in front of their bodies like shields, were a little hokey.) A shame, really- this concert had the potential to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.It unfortunately fell a fair bit short of that.

Hassan Chop! / August 15, 2008 7:55 PM

As if Sun Ra's stage props & costumes were in any way exempt from ever being considered "hokey."

Hey, Rattlesnake Master...ever hear Cohran's "On The Beach" LP? Sounds like you might've missed a hella lotta backstory.

Saphire Boatang / August 16, 2008 11:14 AM

This was one of the best shows I have seen in a long time! Cohran and the ensemble where very inspirational, he played original music instead of emulating the same material everyone else does. Cohran has never been a follower I remember the Affro-Arts theater he has always been an innovator..

Don't ever forget Sun Ra was ran out of Chicago because the so called music critics here never appreciated him...

The same thing happened with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble...

It takes nations such as Japan, Europe & Africa to appreciate a musician before (s) he is loved at home...

Lavon Nicole Pettis / April 30, 2010 4:56 PM

DuSable Museum To Pay Tribute To Legendary Musician Kelan Phil Cohran on May 7th
April 28, 2010

Chicago, IL. (27 April 2010) The DuSable Museum of African American History, will celebrate and honor the contributions to the world of music made by the legendary Kelan Phil Cohran, who will soon observe his 83rd birthday, with a concert in his honor on Friday, May 7, 2010. The concert will feature: The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble; the multi-dimensional expressionist Maia; the divinely inspired Aquilla Sadalla and harpist Josefe Marie Veerna, all who will pay tribute to and salute one of the world’s most revered performers. Chicago favorite, Maggie Brown will serve as the M.C. for the event which will take place at the Museum located at 740 East 56th Place (57th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue) in Chicago.

Kelan Phil Cohran is a “sphereologist.” He coined the term to describe his lifework as a shaman, chemist, composer, activist, cosmologist, wholistic health advocate, instrument inventor and musicologist. .Cohran developed an interest in music at an early age and during his education at Lincoln University, he was introduced to the musical concepts of a local group called The Blue Devils. The Blue Devils were some of the earliest contributors to Jazz who fused blues, African and classical to create a synergy called “swing,” and notable Blue Devils have included Count Basie and Miles Davis.

Cohran began his professional career as the leader of two important bands; Chuck Taylor’s Orchestra and The Raja’s of Swing. In 1953 Cohran moved to Chicago and began to perform with the Morris Ellis Orchestra and other various bands throughout the city. While in Chicago, John Gillmore a band mate of Sun Ra, introduced Kelan Phil Cohran to the Amen Ra of the galaxy and Cohran played the trumpet and zither with Sun Ra from 1958 to 1961 and composed “Dorothy’s Dance” which was featured on the Sun Ra album Holiday for the Soul Dancer.

Kelan Phil Cohran is one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and in 1966, he was commissioned by Oscar Brown Jr., to create twenty-two musical works set to the poems of Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Entitled, “Lyrics of Sunshine & Shadows,” the works were performed in more than 50 schools throughout Chicago and featured in an exhibit at the Children’s Expo held at the Museum of Science and Industry. Mr. Cohran also empowered African Americans by establishing, The Affro-Arts Theatre. Thanks in part to an endowment by Sammy Davis Jr., in addition to a community wide effort, an old movie house was refurbished which became an oasis for patrons and performers such as: Eartha Kitt, Muhammad Ali, Lerone Bennett, Jr., and Gwendolyn Brooks. The curriculum at the theatre was designed around language lessons in Hebrew, Swahili and Arabic; cultural classes and endeavored to address social issues which plagued the African American community.

More than sixty years after his career began, Kelan Phil Cohran continues to teach his original approach to music, all the while still captivating audiences around the globe. He mentored The Pharaohs(some of whom went on to become known as Earth, Wind & Fire), Kahil El Zabar, Patricia Ann Smith, BoBo Brown and Khari Lemuel, in addition to one very notable vocalist who benefited from his musical teaching and training, Chaka Khan. He has written the score for “African Skies” and produced several lectures and shows for the Adler Planetarium including: Benjamin Bannaker, Slavery and Astronomy and Metamorphosis: A History of Jazz. In 1994 Cohran was invited by the Chinese Minister of Culture to lecture and perform at the Conservatory of Traditional Music in Beijing and Xian and it was during that visit that the Chinese anointed Phil Cohran with the name ‘Kelan,’ which means Holy Scripture in Mandarin.

Joining in the Celebration! of Kelan Phil Cohran will be the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, eight brothers from the southside of Chicago who come from an extraordinary musical family(they all happen to be the sons of Kelan Phil Cohran) and have performed with such superstars as Mos Def and Erykah Badu. The group has come to be known as one of the hottest and most individual bands around. Also performing will be Aquilla Sadalla, who’s inspiring display of vocal ability is the result of many years of spiritual development and multi-disciplined study. She has appeared in such diverse venues as the Empty Bottle in Chicago, the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Aarhus, Denmark and Joe’s Public Theatre in New York City.

General admission to the Celebration! of Kelan Phil Cohran is $25 per person and $83 per person for VIP admission which includes assigned seating and a special gift. Tickets are available at the DuSable Museum of African American History and the event is being sponsored by WVON-AM Radio and United Airlines, the official airline of the DuSable Museum.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
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Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
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Kingston Mines
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Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

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  & Shops:

Alligator Records
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Dave's Records
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Drag City
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Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
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Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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