Asked if the emotional pain that suffuses so many of her songs comes from real pain in her life, Jill Cohn offers a common-sense answer: "Oh, sure. It would seem strange to me, actually, to sing about someone else's pain." Having made the interviewer feel like a fool--without meaning to--the Seattle-based singer-songwriter goes on to describe her background. A native of Chatsworth, California, Cohn says she's been playing piano for as long as she can remember. Though she took lessons, "I wasn't too disciplined. I didn't really play what the teacher gave me. I always just played and composed for myself. I couldn't sit down now and play a classical piece. The piano was always a quiet, sacred place for me, where I could speak for myself."
Now in her 30s, Cohn performs regularly with a three-piece combo at Madison's Cafe in Seattle. But it's as a solo act that she comes to the Valley, and her extraordinary, plangently powerful voice requires no support--it's as beautiful an instrument as you're likely to hear in the folk-alternative field these days.
Cohn is still not the star that, on the merits of her pipes and her gift for lyrics, she deserves to be. She still tours in a VW van, with her 11-year-old cat, Tosca, serving as road manager. Accompanying herself on her own electric piano, she sings her self-composed, Joni Mitchell-influenced love laments in the music lounges of Borders Books & Music stores throughout the West.
After the extreme melancholia of her last CD, Matrix's Songs From the Blue Bus, Cohn has tried for--and achieved--a somewhat lighter, sexier tone on her new, self-produced effort, The Absence of Moving. This currently exists only as a "Sample CD Advance" of five songs, which she is selling at her Borders dates to raise money to complete the full album. It serves its purpose--in this incomplete form, the CD leaves you looking forward to more.
Jill Cohn is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 3, at Borders Books & Music at 1361 South Alma School in Mesa (480-833-2244); at 7 p.m. Friday, June 4, at Borders at 870 North 54th Street in Chandler (480-961-4915); at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at Borders at Biltmore Fashion Park, 24th Street and Camelback, Suite 200 (602-957-6660); and at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at Borders at 7320 West Bell Road in Glendale (623-487-9110). Admission is free.