Born in Oxford, Mississippi he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where, in the early fifties, he played trumpet with the U.S. Navy band and a few other bands.
Migrating to Chicago, a turning point came in 1959 when he joined the inimitable Sun Ra Arkestra.
Cohran was introduced to Sun Ra by his friend, Ra’s tenor sax player and constant member John Gilmore. With Sun Ra, Cohran was playing trumpet, cornet and at times zithers plus another instrument of his own invention The Frankiephone.
Essentially an electric kalimba, on the Sun Ra albums that he appears on: Interstellar Low Ways, Fate In A Pleasant Mood, Angels and Demons At Play and We Travel The Spaceways, Cohran’s Frankiphone was called the Space Harp. Cohran and his kalimba was also a big influence on a young Maurice White, who formed Earth Wind and Fire in Chicago, 1969.
Sun Ra and his Arkestra. Chicago, c. 1960 (left to right, Ricky Murray, John Gilmore, Ronnie Boykins, Sun Ra, Phil Cohran, Jon Hardy, Marshall Allen)
Though differences in approach and direction led to Cohran leaving, the AACM is still a wonderful non-profit organization to this day.
|An early Phil Cohran family portrait
Instrumentation for the band is as joyful as is the names of the individual members:
Trumpet – “Smoov”, Trumpet – “Baji”, Trumpet – “Hudah”, Trumpet – “Yoshi”,
Sousaphone – “L.T”, Baritone – “Rocco”, Trombone – “Clef”, Trombone – “Cid”.
|Order Kelan Phil Cohran & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble via the fine folks at Forced Exposure here.|