Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

November/December 2010: Anat Cohen

Karl Kohut

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When Karl Kohut was twelve, he started playing his sister’s electric bass. He’d already been studying piano for years, so he learned quickly. In high school, he picked up the double-bass, and at 20, he was named the Grand Prize Winner at the Canadian Youth Talent Competition for his solo rendition of Victor Wooten’s “A Show of Hands.” Even before completing his Master’s degree at the University of Manitoba this summer, he’d established a busy musical life here in Winnipeg. When he’s not offering lessons and clinics, you can find him doing cutting-edge small ensemble work, holding down Ron Paley’s Big Band, or heating things up with various R&B and funk bands. There’s lots about Karl at, but I tracked him down by email.. – Charlene Diehl

Tell me about life after university.

My life hasn’t changed too much since I finished my degree, except that I have more time to practice now! If my plans come together, I will be going to New York next year for a few months to study and experience the music scene. NYC is full of amazing musicians that I dream of playing with—that’s incredibly motivating!

Besides bass, I’m also practicing a lot on the vibraphone and piano. I played classical percussion throughout junior high and high school, so playing jazz on the vibes feels pretty natural already, even though I haven’t been doing it for very long. On piano, I am working on classical music in addition to jazz—J.S. Bach’s two- and three-part inventions right now.

You play in many different kinds of ensembles. Do you have favourites?

I like them all, but for different reasons. Small jazz ensembles offer the greatest potential for interactivity and dialogue, because each player is very exposed. With big band music, I feel like I have a huge responsibility because so many musicians are relying on me to provide them with clear direction in regard to the rhythm and harmony. I also love playing R&B, soul and funk music because those bass lines are so hypnotic and danceable! I love it when I get to turn up and the people on the dance floor can feel the bass as well as hear it—in those styles of music, the bass is what makes people want to move.

What’s on your iPod at the moment?

Since the beginning of September, I’ve only been listening to one album: the first disc from At the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings by the Keith Jarrett Trio. Keith is incredibly conscious of the rhythmic placement and dynamic shading of every note, which makes even the simplest phrase profound in its delivery. Bassist Gary Peacock has an infectious bounce and lightness in his playing, and drummer Jack DeJohnette is a masterful accompanist who always serves the needs of the music. The last non-jazz album I listened to was Airtight’s Revenge by Bilal. He’s a neo-soul singer from NYC that frequently collaborates with jazz artists—he’s on both Robert Glasper and Terrence Blanchard’s latest albums.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve learned studying jazz?

That’s a hard question to answer, because I’m constantly learning new things. I feel like I’m just starting a lifelong journey of discovery through music and I’m simply excited to see where it will take me.

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