Lorin Cohen Tours Southeast Asia with Yamaha Silent Bass

1/14/2005 [Strings]

The U.S. Dept. of State sent the Chicago Jazz Quartet abroad as cultural ambassadors in August and September. Lorin Cohen took a Yamaha SVB-200 Silent Bass with him on the group's "Jazz Ambassadors Tour" to Southeast Asia.

Lorin Cohen in Ho Chi Minh City
Lorin Cohen and his Yamaha SVB-200 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
BUENA PARK, CA (January 14, 2005) — When you send a group of artists abroad as cultural ambassadors, you send the best. For the U.S. Department of State, that meant the Chicago Jazz Quartet. And for Lorin Cohen, the quartet's bassist, that meant Yamaha. Cohen took a Yamaha SVB-200 Silent Bass with him on the group's five-week, six-nation “Jazz Ambassadors Tour” to Southeast Asia in August and September.

Cohen, a veteran performer on the Chicago jazz scene who also lectures as part of that city's Urban Gateways and Musicalive music education programs, joined pianist Benjamin Lewis, vocalist and trumpeter Matt Lewis and drummer Michael Raynor for performances in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines.

“In a lot of these countries, they're just obsessed with American culture, and they can't get enough of it,” Cohen says. “We have these rigid distinctions between jazz, pop and so forth, but they were just hearing American music. They really responded to the music, and they loved it.”

According to Cohen, the SVB-200 Silent Bass's compact body and detachable frame made it possible for him to complete a grueling travel itinerary that would have been ill-suited to a traditional acoustic model.

“Over the six weeks, we flew almost 25 flights, and it would have been impossible to bring my acoustic bass,” he says. “We've been getting back videos of some of the performances we did, and I've been amazed at how good it sounds. It held up wonderfully, even when we were dealing with humidity like I've never experienced in my life—and was very flexible. I would not have been able to do it without Yamaha's help, and it bodes very well for the future of traveling bass players.”

Lorin Cohen in Jakarta
In Jakarta, Indonesia
Like other Yamaha silent string instruments, the SVB-200 Silent Bass replaces the volume of a traditional acoustic body with a slender design. Electronic piezo pickups combine with onboard circuitry to produce a full-bodied tone to rival the finest acoustic bass. This design adds flexibility in performance, since the instrument's output can be integrated into a sound design without the need for a microphone or pre-amplification; it also simplifies the performer's life offstage, since its smaller profile makes it easy to carry and ship, with less risk of damage.

The Jazz Ambassadors Tour is a collaborative venture between the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Seven other jazz ensembles have been sent abroad to other destinations as part of the program. During their visits, the Chicago Jazz Quartet performed at U.S. embassies, universities, television studios and more intimate locations, frequently sharing the stage with local artists and students.

Cohen notes that he and his bandmates encountered a variety of cultural atmospheres on their tour. “It was amazing,” he says. “Pakistan was a cultural treasure-trove; the musical tradition there is incredible, and I was able to perform with some classical sitar, tambur and wood flute masters there. In Vietnam, we performed in several places where we were the first American musical group ever to perform. In Haiphong, they'd never heard of jazz.”

For more information about the Silent Series of Yamaha Band & Orchestral instruments, write Yamaha Corporation of America, Band & Orchestral Division, P.O. Box 6600, Buena Park, CA 90622; telephone (714) 522-9011; e-mail infostation@yamaha.com; or visit www.yamaha.com/band.

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