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Todd Cochran  

A life of music is a continually changing and often complex endeavor - where tastes, interests, timing and dedication intersect.

Musical art forms are fascinating in the way they convey cultural ideas - the traditional and then the innovative. True creative expression is the result of an ongoing process of exploration and discovery.

The musical world is the only life pianist/composer Todd Cochran has known; born into a musical family, fingering melodies at three, a student of piano and theory - Trinity College of Music, London, public performances of classical repertoire at ten - classical recordings as a teenager - jazz concerts at 15, jazz recordings at 18. Cochran's adaptation in the musical art culture not only brilliantly reflects his American heritage - the concert classical tradition, the songs of the African American church (his paternal grandmother was a minister), mainstream and contemporary jazz, rhythm & blues and pop - but also his commitment to going beyond merely playing notes, to uncover the deeper elements of a composition. Whether solo performance, jazz ensemble, chamber group or full symphonic orchestra, Cochran has always been fascinated by the possibilities of organizing musical sounds. His artistic path reflects his belief that "music is an expression of humanity's intelligence, aspiration and good will."

As a communicator, Cochran's commitment goes beyond merely "playing the notes" - he uses sounds and variations of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic design, in order to develop a true feeling and interpretation for the dramatic setting. He treats sounds as a painter with a palette of colors - at once the colors become sounds, moods, and shadings. That which appears to be abstract communicates to a listener in a very natural way, often as an unfolding story with an unexpected outcome. And then Cochran uses words, both spoken and written, to help the interested understand.

It was at the onset of Cochran's teen years that he challenged his classical tutelage and ventured into 'personalized' creativity through jazz, thus launching him into two worlds - 'improvisational' jazz and 'interpretive' classical. Be it that Cochran had no formal training in jazz, the extensive classical background provided him an instant lunge in becoming a jazz musician and composer, and to apprentice with several major jazz artists who were attracted to both his compositional approach and innovative style at the keyboard.

Cochran quickly moved on to playing and recording with, or writing for, John Handy, Bobby Hutcherson, Rashaan Roland Kirk, and to his solo jazz album that exploded to #1 on the jazz charts, Worlds Around The Sun. These accomplishments led to a recording with Herbie Hancock when Cochran was 19, on the now cult film, The Spook That Sat Behind the Door. It was during this time that Hancock introduced Cochran to a developing technology that was capturing his attention - electronic keyboards and synthesizers.

Shortly thereafter Cochran's professional direction was altered by two significant events; the re-recording of a composition by Santana for Cochran's first album and the formation of Cochran's innovative rock band Automatic Man. From this album one of Cochran's compositions My Pearl remains on Billboard Magazine's all time Top 40 list. The first Automatic Man album has long been considered a landmark recording and collector's item.

Cochran's moving to London in the late 70's with his band, marked the beginning of his expatriate period and encroached his feelings about jazz, as this new blues based, highly emotional music with its electronically and vocally articulated message became a major platform for Cochran's professional reputation. Cochran went on to a long professional association with Peter Gabriel, to forming a band with Carl Palmer of ELP, and to appearing/recording with numerous English artists.

In the early 1980s Cochran returned to America to re-immerse himself in the roots he had left behind. By this time he was perceived somewhat as an enigma, known as a product of the jazz tradition, and for his reputation within the elite English art-rock scene. Cochran settled in Los Angeles and embarked upon a prestigious period of behind-the-scenes work as a synthesist, keyboardist, sound designer, composer, arranger and producer, with his involvement in these various areas extending to film work and over 500 recordings with artists Maya Angelou, Joan Armatrading, Grover Washington Jr., John Hiatt, Natalie Cole, Rod Stewart, Freddie Hubbard, Burt Bacharach, Jeff Beck, Stan Getz, George Benson, Maynard Ferguson, Aretha Franklin, The Crusaders and Stanley Clarke.

In the late 1980s, and with the range of his collaborations continuing to extend beyond the usual 'generic lines,' Cochran became increasingly fascinated by the cultural cornerstones that inspire creativity and the catalyst forces that converge to send commercial tastes in new directions. Cochran's decision had been made: utilize his eclectic experiences, re-focus on his original instrument and first love - the piano, and devote time to serious composition as it applies to live performance and scoring for motion pictures.

His early 1990's audiophile recordings on the VITAL label received favorable critical review and got significant airplay in the states, Europe and Japan. This led to concert performances at venues such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, recital halls, club appearances, etc. During this period of intensely focusing on the piano Cochran began receiving requests to speak about his musical journeys and explain the creative process that enabled him to participate in multiple musical camps and across stylistic boundaries. The intersecting lines of the cultural tie ins were many, and he realized how effectively progressive ideas about the human condition can be conveyed through the musical arts - both through performance and creatively speaking about how music directly relates to the human condition. This resulted in lectures and master classes at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, etc., and stimulated his interest in the valuable exchange that occurs while educating aspiring musicians and as well as those who look to music for inspiration.

Cochran is passionate about referencing the origins and roots of American music, African American music, concert music, and all forms of cultural diaspora; he draws from them and then often incorporates influences from other parts of the world in his compositions. Words and writing have long been hobbies of Cochran's, and his essays about music - the philosophies of making it, the importance of the new idea and how bridging points of view will continue to influence contemporary culture - are published in many major magazines. As a way to give to and interact with the collective creative community he is regularly heard doing interviews and commentaries for National Public Radio.

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