Jazz Musician Charlie Kohlhase

By Alex Ashlock

For WBUR listeners, Charlie Kohlhase is a familiar voice. He's one of the overnight announcers, working the midnight to 5 am shift. You hear him during the breaks in the BBC. But Charlie's real job is music. He has been a fixture of the local jazz scene for more than 20 years, playing in a number of bands, including The Charlie Kohlhase Quintent, Dead Cat Bounce and the Either/Orchestra.

These days, it's Charlie Kohlhase's Explorer's Club, and the septet's latest CD is called "Adventures" on Boxholder Records.

"Adventures" features a number of tunes that reflect his interest in superhero mythology.

"For some reason I was just touched somewhere and wrote a ton of music in 2006 that I needed to title," says Kohlhase, "and I think there must have been a new superman movie at the time and I just was on this superhero kick. And I of course couldn't use any copyrighted superheroes, so I invented my own."

One of the those tunes is called "Loquator & Taciturnator." Loquator's superpower is the ability to talk his opponent into submission. Taciturnator can slay his opponent with a cutting remark.

"I think I wrote the Loquator part first," Kohlhase says. "I had this very busy, very active melody and it all just jumbled together. And I was like, this needs some room to breathe so I started writing these more spread out phrases that were a little more quiet, taciturn, so that's how the piece took shape."

"Bedlam and lack of structure," is how one reviewer described the Kohlhase tune "Thryllkyll On The Schyllkyll."
But the artist takes a different view. "Because I know what's going to happen. I guess as a listener you don't know that it's going to resolve into the next figure. But these open improvisations are stretches between signposts on the road. You get to your next signpost and you change direction. To me it's structured chaos. That's what jazz is to me."

The jazz world recently lost a legend, the composer, bandleader and teacher George Russell. He died on July 27 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Charlie Kohlhase had these reflections on Russell.

"Who was the writer that they called the man who invented the future, was that Jules Verne, the guy who had submarines and all these fantastic things in his writing. Stuff that came to be later. To me George Russell was the Jules Verne of Jazz. He predicted the future of jazz in so many ways. He was doing this stuff in the 40s. Listen to the stuff he wrote for Dizzy Gillespie in the late 40s. He also had a huge influence on Miles Davis and Bill Evans."

This program aired on August 4, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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