Al Cohn

Al Cohn

Tenor Sax icon Tenor Sax

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February 15, 1988 (Age 62) died

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New York, New York, U.S. Birthplace

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Al Cohn was a jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger whose career spanned 45 years. In the 1940s he played in the bands of Joe Marsala and Buddy Rich, but began to attract attention when he joined Woody Herman's '"Four Brothers" in 1948. In Herman's band Cohn met fellow tenor player Zoot Sims and the two musicians began an association that would last until their deaths. Al Cohn released dozens of records as leader or co-leader, many with Sims, and appears on over 350 recordings as a sideman. He was a talented composer/arranger and provided arrangements for a variety of artists including Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, Gerry Mulligan, Tony Bennet, Peggy Lee, and Linda Ronstadt. Cohn also arranged for Broadway and television, working on the Broadway productions of Raisin' and Sophisticated Ladies and television shows such as “The Steve Allen Show,” and “Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows.” In his later years, Cohn largely gave up writing so that he could focus on his playing. Al Cohn died of cancer in 1988 at the age of 62.


Al Cohn performed regularly with The Zoot Sims – Al Cohn Quintet n New York from 1957 through the early 1980s. Al Cohn was one of the jazz musicians who accompanied Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac during readings and recording sessions. Al Cohn's nickname was Mr. Music.

Early Life

Al Cohn was born in 1925 and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a child he initially showed interest in the piano and clarinet, but after hearing Lester Young, Cohn decided to take up the tenor saxophone. He was entirely self-taught and made his professional debut when he was 18 years old.