Marc Cohen played alto saxophone (he now is a pianist who performs as Marc Copeland) who graduated from Columbia in 1969 and went out with Chico Hamilton's band. He occasionally performed as a leader on the Upper West Side and would come by and do a live session on David Reitman’s “Journey to the End of the Night” on WKCR. One Wednesday night in May 1972 I was asked to engineer a trio session with Marc, acoustic bassist Glenn Moore (soon to be known as part of the Oregon quartet), and Stan Getz drummer Jeff Williams, and I set up Studio A expecting a typical acoustic jazz trio.
But Marc came in with his alto, a Maestro Echoplex, a small amplifier, and plugged in.
We all were familiar with electronically modified acoustic instruments in jazz from Eddie Harris to, most interestingly, Miles Davis and The Tony Williams Lifetime. We didn’t totally love Eddie’s try because the electronics didn’t really change the energy of the jazz, while Miles and Tony were more in the direction rock raised fans like us could relate to.
Marc wailed it like Eric Clapton in Madison Square Garden, while the rhythm section rocked along with all of the polyrhythmic finesse of Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. The perfect combo for music that was searching for the next steps beyond.
There was no doubt we were witnessing the future being made in front of our ears. Marc was bringing melody and rhythmic excitement to help solve two ends at the same time. The energy in jazz was being focused into the atonal descendants of Coltrane, Coleman, and Taylor, not particularly attractive to a wide audience. Rock was more popular, but desperately searching for improvisations that made more sense than 20 minute drum solos. Here it was with musicians who had no rock antipathy but enjoyed the open nature of jazz.
Before the group had packed up I asked Marc whether we could edit the sessions (each jam was over 15 minutes long) and release them on Oblivion. When he called me back a few days later he was excited to having his music released but felt like the playing could have been better on the composed parts of the tunes. Could he come back for more sessions that could be master takes?
Sure thing. WKCR’s Studio A was due for a complete overhaul, including brand new stereo machines and better soundproofing. Marc would be back in town right after the construction. We were set to go.