James Cohen - Reviews



"A most commendable endeavor showing true musical excellence."

Summer 2003 


"Bursting out with eleven incredible flamenco and tango flavored tranks, "High Side of Lowdown" finds James Cohen in the company of top players like Tony D. (steel string guitar), Devin Johnston (percussion), Stu Watkins (bass) and Richard Bell (keyboard player in Janis Joplin's Full-Tilt Boogie Band). In the spirit of guitar greats like hot-jazz master Django Reinhardt, the all instrumental "High Side of Lowdown" really swings and conjures up a tasty array of acoustic-based jazzy and bluesy flavored flamenco guitar originals. In addition to his captivating rapid-fire flamenco guitar technique, Cohen is also acclaimed for inventing the VKO MundoBeat -- the world's only flamenco and worldbeat metronome -- a product used and endorsed by such flamenco stars as Ottmar Liebert, Jesse Cook and Miguel de la Bastide."

-Robert Silverstein
20th Century Guitar Magazine
November 2003 


"James Cohen on "High Side of Lowdown" also takes an old form and makes it new. In his case, he takes flamenco and seasons it with various contemporary styles and comes up with a savory musical dish that both pays homage to his original inspiration while making it new for contemporary listeners. "Fortune's Fool" generates rock-like energy, and it wouldn't surprise me if I were sitting in some dark café listening to "La Tormenta" if the ghost of Django would take a free chair at the table. He'd undoubtedly be smiling."

-David Dupont
August 2003 


"Gritty inventiveness, slighty raunchy vibe, infectious drive, feel-good tunes and the gorgeously fat tone of both James' and Tony's guitars."

-Srajan Ebaen
Six Moons.com
August, 2003 


This disc was a surprise or, more accurately it arrived without preconceptions. The presence of Ottawa's Tony D. and the knowledge that Fred Litwin's NorthernBlues label has a habit of hitting home-runs in the blues genre established certain expectations. I did not expect flamenco music. Yet, the more I listened, the more I enjoyed the brief respite from more typical blues fare. Cohen plays, after doing time in rock bands, his version of what can only be called gypsy music in the style of Paco de Lucia, Django Rheinhardt, and Ottmar Liebert. At the same time, he fuses elements of blues to the definitive rhythms of flamenco. There is inspired playing throughout and the dual guitars of Cohen and D. run the gamut from the highly colourful Spanish sounds of "Pun Tango" to the seductive rhythms and romantic furor of the title track. This release is not ripe with technical brilliance but, instead, serves up seriously inspired playing and an enthusiastic approach to the melding of flamenco to blues and pop. In the process it shakes some dust off Strunz & Farrah, if not the Gypsy Kings. A perfect accompaniment to a fine meal and large bottle of wine."

-Eric Thom
Penguin Eggs
Summer 2003 


"James Cohen has a lifetime of guitar playing under his belt, but it wasn't until a trip to Venezuela at age 21 that he discovered flamenco music. A student of the discipline ever since, Cohen seems a natural at the craft. Produced by Richard Bell (Janis Joplin's piano player), "High Side of Lowdown" is a fusion of precise flamenco with a more easygoing blues sound. But he gets into the heat of Latin passion on "The Lemming" - complete with flamenco footwork by Caroline Tardis. The instrumentalist brings a fine sound to a music style that deserves a listen."

-Jeff Hurst
Cambridge Times
May 9, 2003 


"Northernblues is an interesting Canadian label whose artists tend to mix genres. One of my favorites has been Harry Manx, a blues guitarist who adds Indian flavors to his music.

James Cohen adds flamenco and gypsy influences to his playing, and while this is recognizably a blues record it also encompasses tango and an ensemble "gypsy jazz" feel reminiscent of Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France.

This is warm, vital, entertaining music played by Cohen and a trio of other musicians with wide influences; second guitarist Tony D. sounds a lot like George Benson without all the godawful singing, and keyboardist Richard Bell adds a little Irish squeezebox to the festivities.

It's a fun mix, and while you won't see these guys at Ozzfest, they'd be fun to watch over a round of opaque beer in a small club.

Highly recommended."

-David Wilkins
The Daily World, Washington
March 28, 2003 


"Ottawa guitarist James Cohen and his acoustic band deliver sensual music that captures the blues spirit from different angles."

-Jim Santella
All About Jazz
May 5, 2003 


"Make no mistake: James Cohen is a gifted guitarist well versed in the explosive rhythms of Flamenco and the joyfull Django style Gypsy jazz. He plays it smart and loose throughout High Side of Low Down: his nimble fretwork is full of unbridled enthusiasm, enough to set him apart from the skillfull yet cold "Nouveau Flamenco" technicians who favour rote gestures over soul. Cohen stacks the deck with sympathetic guests. Richard Bell (piano accordion) Devin Johnstone (percussion) Stu Watkins (bass) and bluesman Tony D. (whose stinging licks provide the perfect counter to Cohen's subtle flourishes) deliver inspired performances over the course of 11 striking treats."

-Steve Baylin
Ottawa Xpress
May 15, 2003 


"The only connection to the blues on James Cohen's High Side of Lowdown is that this all-instrumental guitar album was released by Canadian blues label NorthernBlues Music. But just as NorthernBlues president Fred Litwin couldn't resist putting this one out, all Blues Bytes readers would be well-advised to take a listen to this disc --- the music within it is just plain exhilarating. Even the story is great --- Cohen, a jeweler in Canada, goes to Venezuela on a gem-buying trip, where he encounters a flamenco guitarist at a local tapas bar. Cohen winds up jamming with the man, and the moment inspires him to start seriously studying flamenco music. This reviewer is certainly not qualified to pass serious judgment on this style of music, but listening to it should made me feel good. I especially liked the song "Tiny Monkeys," not just for the unique title but also for Cohen's nimble work on the strings plus Richard Bell's tasteful piano accompaniment. The hottest guitar work can be heard on "Fortune's Fool," on which Cohen's fingers just plain fly across the guitar strings. If you're in the mood to venture away from the blues and want to put a little zest into your life, then take a listen to High Side of Lowdown. You'll love it!"

-Bill Mitchell