Jun 13, 2021
Todd Cochran’s lengthy career has taken him from work with masters like Bobby Hutcherson and Freddie Hubbard, through groundbreaking electric and jazz-soul sounds under his name and under this Afrocentric name Bayeté, to backing rock acts from Santana to Peter Gabriel to Joan Armatrading. He has continued his first love of composing classical music, and has successfully scored films and television shows.
And then, for eight years, there was almost nothing.
What he termed his "extended hiatus" has ended dramatically with the release this week of the aptly named Then and Again, Here & Now (Sunnyside Records) by the TC3, a trio composed of Cochran on piano, bassist John Leftwich and drummer Michael Carvin. The album goes deep into the soul of standards by Gershwin, Ellington, Monk, Brubeck and even Bach. The result is always stirring, and sometimes revelatory. The trio gets deep into the energy that flows from great jazz compositions, reinterpreting tunes that would come across as just another cover in the hands of less intuitive musicians. And their solos – especially those from bassist Leftwich – are always stunning. Even a listener like me who prides himself on digging piano trios can find new and wonderful things to hear on Then and Again, Here & Now.
Cochran began classical piano study and performance as early as eight years old. His cousin introduced him to jazz at thirteen, and Cochran found a parallel, magnetizing pulse. He began to revisit his parents’ collection of Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal recordings, transcribing and analyzing them so he could apply their lessons to his own music. It wasn’t long before Cochran was reaching out to local jazz leaders and becoming a mainstay of the burgeoning Bay Area music scene of the late sixties and early seventies. He found himself backing the likes of John Handy, Woody Shaw, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Herbie Hancock, Julian Priester, and Eddie Henderson.
By 1971 he was arranging, performing on and composing most of Bobby Hutcherson’s classic Head On, and then moving to become a key figure in the electric jazz being honed by Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi, collaborating with members Hancock and Julian Priester. Under the name Bayeté, Cochran released Worlds Around the Sun in 197>, which included the oft-sampled “For Angela”, a tune that became part of Santana’s repertoire (check out the version on the classic live Lotus album).
Podcast 822 is the first of a two-part conversation with Todd Cochran, as we discuss why he ended his hiatus from recording and performing jazz, why he chose the vehicle of a piano trio to record classic jazz material. The talk is deeply personal, and Todd shares his spiritual love of music and musical conversation throughout our conversation. The second part of the talk, where we discuss Cochran’s past, particularly his collaborations with Bobby Hutcherson. Musical selections from Then and Again, Here & Now include "Bemsha Swing" and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”