Night Lights: Psychologist turned jazz extraordinaire at Kurrents

Michael Cohen plays jazz standards weekly at Kurrent's Restaurant.

Phyllis Bator/Special to the Eagle

Michael Cohen plays jazz standards weekly at Kurrent's Restaurant.

Michael Cohen plays jazz standards weekly at Kurrent's Restaurant.

Phyllis Bator/Special to the Eagle

Michael Cohen plays jazz standards weekly at Kurrent's Restaurant.

Kurrents

400 South Collier Boulevard, Marco

Starting his sixth year at Kurrent’s Restaurant in the Marco Island Marriott Hotel, Michael Cohen has established himself as a jazz saxophonist extraordinaire. Not only playing great standards everyone can relate to, he does such great improvisations that it will undoubtedly make you want to linger long after you’ve had dinner. His music is soothing to listen to and great for dancing, although the dance floor is small and intimate.

Kurrent’s atmosphere lends itself to soft surroundings with a bar right next to Cohen’s area. In addition to the large dining area, a small intimate cocktail table for four is close to the bar.

Cohen’s music of jazz standards is never overly loud and the excellent acoustics are at a perfect level making his saxophone sounds sweet. The high notes are also clear and smooth as anyone who appreciates good music can attest to. Music may be just music to some people, but to jazz lovers, it isn’t just a combination of notes that anyone can play. It’s how those notes are put together that makes beautiful music. Cohen has accomplished that.

According to Cohen, he’s been playing for over 45 years, but his background career was as a clinical psychologist. “Eight years ago, I decided to start playing and it just happened,” he said. “Music is my life.”

His past gigs include playing at the Olde Marco Inn, playing with Chris Foster and the Bungalow Band, and sit ins with Bob Evans at Gabriella’s Italian Restaurant in Naples. But he’s found a home at Kurrent’s and thoroughly enjoys entertaining there. He doesn’t want applause and when people do applaud, Cohen waves his hands down, in essence, saying “Thank you, but it’s not necessary.” He is quite humble.

Playing the saxophone since the fourth grade, he continued playing through college and graduate school but never considered playing the saxophone as a vocation. When he sang, he fashioned his voice after Paul Desmond and stated that John Coultrain has always been an inspiration for him as well as other great artists.

He continues to study jazz seriously. His previous teacher was Ed Maiana whom he considered a master. Cohen traveled to Fort Lauderdale weekly for lessons. That has since changed. “I’ve been studying for the last six months with the bebop wizard, Dan Miller, an extraordinary trumpeter as well as a great teacher, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. It really is a breath of fresh air for me,” Cohen said. “It is totally in the jazz idiom. It’s a bebop idiom which is wonderful, exciting and a totally different language. It’s difficult to change languages,” he continued.

“I know that to the layman, you don’t understand that there are three or four different jazz styles, and the languages are quite different. It’s not easy to change. There’s no Rosetta stone. It is hard work, but I fit that in,” he explained.

Cohen stated that he practices upward of three or four hours a day now. He considers himself in the 11th grade musically, but he is well past that level. “I study hard and play hard and would love to have people come out to enjoy jazz and good music,” Cohen concluded.

Although Cohen plays at Kurrent’s all year, his schedule changes according to the season. Currently, he plays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

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Kurrent’s Restaurant is located at 400 S. Collier Blvd. Information: 642-2695

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