Peter Kogan: The Green Album

Drummer Peter Kogan mixes and matches hard bop ensembles of various sizes on this comfort food collection of jazz standards and originals. In a vintage quintet format, Pete Whitman’s tenor swings and Phil Aaron’s piano glides to a Blue Notey “Fools Blues” and Jake Baldwin’s muted trumpet coos on a rich “Miles Back.” Kogan gives a hip Crescent City snap for bassist Jeff Bailey on “Moos the Mooche” and bounces on “My Little Suede Shoes. Slightly larger ensembles, the band drives to Baeily’s line on a strong and muscular “Slippery Slope” while Turner is lovely on “Honolulu.” Eternal sounds for the ages.



Kogan, Peter: The Green Album

Drumming master Peter Kogan has been around now for decades. He joined the Cleveland Orchestra in 1969 and in 1972 joined the Pittsburgh Symphony. In the late ‘70s Kogan moved to New York City where he worked as a session musician for six years. This was followed by stints with the Honolulu Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra. It wasn’t until 2013 he released his first album titled Cornucopia followed by Some Monster Wonderthing in 2015. His latest disc is titled The Green Album and features fifteen players, all top notch musicians.


Modern melodic jazz does not get much better than this. The disc covers eleven tracks, including three covers and starts with the superb “MLW Blues Evolution”. Piano and congas begin the piece before the full band lays down a great groove. The rhythm section of Kogan and Jeff Bailey on bass sets the pace as the trumpet, trombone and sax trade solos. With “Slippery Slope”, written in response to the 2016 US election, discordant rhythms and heavy drums make way for an almost frenzied approach with highlight reel trumpet, saxophone, piano, drums and bass. Again, the musicianship is just so good. The jazzy guitar runs should also be mentioned. With the Gillespie penned “Con Alma”, Kogan and Bailey display a fluid synchronicity as some wonderful solos on trumpet and tenor sax, courtesy of Jake Baldwin and Pete Whitman respectively along with Phil Aaron’s thoughtful piano work fill out the piece. The playful cover of Charlie Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes” is more highlight material. The colourful tenor sax and trumpet add a feeling of pure joy.


The Green Album is without a doubt a masterful work, chock full of great melodies, arrangements and ensemble playing. Absolutely stunning.


Track Listing:
1. MLW Blues Evolution (7:28)
2. Slippery Slope (6:06)
3. Miles Back (6:29)
4. Con Alma (6:48)
5. My Little Suede Shoes (4:24)
6. The Mooche (7:19)
7. Fools Blues (4:46)
8. Don’t Stop Lovin’ Me Babe (4:16)
9. Moose The Mooche (4:57)
10. Honolulu (Green Theme Song) (4:54)
11. El Rancho (8:15)

Added: April 9th 2019
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Artist's Official Site
Hits: 63
Language: english




   PETER KOGAN [dms] has put together a wonderful CD of 7 originals and 5 jazz classics [66:06] recorded between June 2017 and August 2018 called THE GREEN ALBUM [Koganote Records 003]. The nicely paced program is presented by a pool of 15 well-voiced Minnesotan musicians. There is nothing here screaming for attention, no flaming wizardry. There is tension here, in fact, it came on the first run though listening just as I began to wonder when some break out in the music might happen. Kogan gets credit for the understatement of the whole but also the steady cross beats of sticks. Deadlines being what they are, I’ll listen to Peter Kogan’s earlier work and hopefully report back in the next Papatamus.



Jazz Author/Blogger

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The Poconos in B Flat

How has your symphony experience influenced the jazz musician you are today?

I am sure there is an indirect but palpable influence. Years of playing and listening to long-form through-composed symphonic music probably influenced my compositions. Many have shapes that are not 32-bar song forms, or I’ll have a blowing section that uses the material (the harmony) of the tune but not an exact repetition of the chords of the head.

I try to follow wherever the material leads me. When it does come out as a standard form, like my tune “Miles Back” from “The Green Album” I’m surprised and delighted! I love the blues and had the joy of playing with some of the old – timers like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Honeyboy Edwards. So my tune – FOOLS BLUES – is a standard 12-bar form. On the other hand, the opening tune – “BMW Blues Evolution” – is an expansion of blues form and is 26 bars long. 

As far as playing the drums goes, my years in the orchestra gave me a sense of how the great composers used the percussion instruments as colors to enhance the melodic and harmonic materials, and the timpani as a more structural emphasis – almost always reinforcing the big cadences like V – I [ like G7 – C]. But time-keeping is still the foundation, of course!  

Can you imagine a place for the timpani in a jazz ensemble?

Not really – although Elvin Jones used it wonderfully. I have yet to conceive of a place for it in my music.

Why have you made percussion your primary instrument?

Love of rhythm even though I’m a terrible dancer. Good groove is an incredible high. Enhancing the melodic with non-pitch sonority and drive. I love the tactile feel of the sticks on the drum. (I could never play guitar because I don’t enjoy plucking the strings!) 

What is the inspiration behind “The Green Album” and what does the name refer to?

In some ways the album is a completion of a mixture of new material and older pieces that never came to light when I was in my 30’s, an end piece to a trilogy that began with my earlier albums “Cornucopia” and “Some Monsterful Wonderthing.” Those had a blue and a red cover, so I thought this one should feature green – I’m not being completely facetious! The tune “Honolulu” is named for where it was written and was originally titled “Evergreen” – meaning music is always freshly renewing…that’s the theme.

What’s the most interesting percussion instrument or accessory you regularly use?

I’m using a standard kit with lots of cymbals, but I have some really old red wooden temple blocks I use on Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche.”

How long was this album in the making?

The first tracks were recorded in May of 2017 and the last track was recorded August 1, 2018. Many of the tunes were written or arranged and tried out in the previous few years.

What was the highlight of producing it?

Listening back to the takes and admiring the work of the 15 musicians who participated in the project.

Do the songs interrelate- tell a story- or are they discrete entities? 

There are some songs related to specific events. For example, the tunes “Slippery Slope” and “Miles Back” were both written very quickly just after the 2016 election and reflect my feelings at the time. “Honolulu” was written during a break from my years as a drummer in NYC when I worked with the Honolulu Symphony for a few months. Some tribute tunes relate to great jazz masters like “Fools Blues” [Monk and Wayne Shorter] and “MLW Blues Evolution” inspired by Mary Lou Williams, and the tune” El Rancho” might just as well have been called “Spaghetti Western”!

Don’t Stop Lovin’ Me Babe” was my immediate idea for a lyric to go with the “hook” [melody] in that tune, and of course it is dedicated to my wife Julia. 

This is the first time I have recorded cover tunes so I picked four contrasting ones from the “canon” all of which have contrasting grooves – which is part of the album concept as well.

How did you choose the musicians for it?

Fortunately there are great talents here in Minneapolis/St Paul. I had a bunch of players working in my Quintet and Septet to draw from and others I could pick and choose from for specific tunes.  

Where did you debut this music?

Most of the tunes were played by my band at venues such as The Black Dog in St. Paul and Jazz Central Studios in Minneapolis. The first of two CD release gigs was at the Icehouse in Minneapolis this past November, followed by one at The Black Dog in January.

What’s the biggest challenge for a small ensemble jazz musician today?

Steady work so you can keep the group together for everyone to get really comfortable with the material. Players have to take work where they can get it to survive, and that means people aren’t always playing the music they love and aren’t available when you need them. But I’ve been lucky to have great subs! 

What do you like most about the Twin Cities’ jazz scene?

Great talent and a wonderful camaraderie among the musicians. There is also a remarkable range of styles within the jazz community here.

When did you form your own label “Koganote”?

I formed the label for my first album, “Cornucopia.” It’s a salute to BlueNote records of course, and as my own label I can put out anything I want.  

Favorite melancholy jazz tune?

Probably “Stella By Starlight,” “Blue in Green,” “Nardis” and my own [shamelessly] “Miles Back.” 

What would be your dream collaboration?

I’m between dreams at the moment.

Other comments?

Just that I’m so glad you are interested in my music!

For more information, visit www.peterkoganmusic.com.


Minneapolis Star Tribune

jazz & more mostly in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Our 10 best-album picks for the 2015 Twin Cities Critics Tally and why     

Each year for the past several years, Star Tribune music writer Chris Riemenschneider has kindly included me in his annual Twin Cities Critics Tally, in which a bunch of us music and arts writers pick our top 10 Minnesota albums of the year. He knows that most of my choices will be lone flags flapping in the breeze – I listen to jazz, new music and classical – and none will have any influence on the TCCT’s ultimate goal of identifying the 20 Best Minnesota Albums of the Year. But he asks me anyway and I’m happy to shine some Strib light on artists who might not get much otherwise. All that being said, here are my top 10 (in alpha order, not ranked).

Peter Kogan, “Some Monsterful Wonderthing” (self-released on Koganote)  We lucked out this year with two recordings of brand-new hard bop composed by area musicians, performed by area musicians and recorded in Minneapolis. (The other album is Dean Sorenson's  Sextet, "Colors of the Soul".)

Drummer Peter Kogan spent several years as principal timpanist for the Minnesota Orchestra, playing jazz on the side (and more seriously during the lockout of the musicians during a lengthy labor dispute, when he suddenly, if unwillingly, had the time). The CD features all-original tunes and top area musicians. Kogan’s core band for “Monsterful” is a septet with Pete Whitman on tenor sax, fellow Minnesota Orchestra member Charles Lazarus on flugelhorn and trumpet, Scott Agster on trombone, Cory Wong on guitar, Sean Turner on piano and Brian Courage on bass, with appearances by New York-based Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Boccata and pianist Tommy Barbarella. Two great bands playing tight, swinging original music. I couldn’t choose between them.


Percussive Notes


Some Monsterful Wonderthing
Peter Kogan
Koganote Records

In October 2012 the management of
the Minnesota Orchestra locked out all
its musicians and cancelled concerts until
January 2014. Some musicians moved
on; some stayed and found support in a
local organization called Save Our Symphony.
Timpanist Peter Kogan, however,
decided to devote his time off to creative
pursuits, rekindling his love of jazz
drumming and composing new tunes
and arrangements that culminated in two
albums: Cornucopia(2013) and this new-est album,
Some Monsterful Wonderthing

The drumming is just as you might
imagine from a world-renowned timpanist:
a masterful touch that is perfectly
supportive of the music, at times blending
into the texture alternating with
moments of soaring to the fore. Kogan
has a gift for writing memorable melodies
and infectious grooves. The tunes
are surprisingly upbeat, considering the
situation under which they were created.
The opening tune is no exception. “S.O.S.
Samba” is a bouncing and joyful samba,
which features Kogan and Brazilian
percussionist Rogerio Baccata. A second-
line inspired groove anchors “Nola Joe,”
which eventually gives way to Kogan’s
only extended drum solo on the album.

It isn’t often that we get to hear a
career orchestral timpanist play jazz
drumset to his own originally composed
music. But forget that; this is just terrific
music-making—great tunes, great playing, period.
This project is also a great
lesson and a twist on the old saying:
“When life gives you lemons... improvise!”

—John Lane


Percussive Notes, September 2013

Peter Kogan
Peter Kogan, principal timpanist
with the Minnesota Orchestra, is a great
example of a skilled percussionist who
happens to make his primary living as
a classical musician. Actually, Kogan
spent six years playing jazz and blues in
New York City and also played drumset
with the Honolulu Symphony. Not only
does Kogan play drumset on Cornucopia,
he also composed all of the tunes and
helped produce the CD.
After listening to the recording, it is
obvious he has a great knowledge of jazz
history, style awareness, and gets around
the drums with ease. The tunes vary in
instrumentation from a quartet to an
octet and include Kogan, Craig Hara,
percussion; Mary Louise Knutson, piano;
Tommy Barbarella, piano; Cory Wong,
guitar; Dave Williamson, bass; Charles
Lazurus, trumpet/flugelhorn; Brain
Grivna, alto sax/tenor sax; Kenny Holmen,
tenor sax, soprano sax; and Tom
Ashworth, trombone.
“Frenchy Dog,” is an energetic, bluesy
bop tune that the composer describes
as “out of the Monk/Parker/Gillespie
mold.” “Fats Is Beautiful,” is a waltz intribute to Fats Waller. It is followed by
“Jones Jam,” a tune influenced by Wayne
Shorter’s recordings with Reggie Workman,
McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones.
It alternates between moderate swing
and West African 6/8 grooves. Kogan
calls the title cut, “Cornucopia,” a “pop
samba with harmonic influences from
Joe Sample and Stevie Wonder”—a good
Keeping with the ever-changing pace
comes a tribute to Duke Ellington called
“Blue Duke,” followed by a slow 3/4
funk/fusion tune called “Blues for Mary
Lou,” referencing Mary Lou Williams.
The CD concludes with “Bags Check,”
dedicated to Milt Jackson, which alternates
between a straight-ahead blues
groove (kind of “down and dirty”) and a
double-time bop feel.
The recording contains an enjoyable,
versatile array of tunes, played by fine
musicians, and appears to be a showcase
of styles dear to Kogan’s heart. His
knowledge, skill, and passion for music
are evident. At times, the drumming on
the swing charts sounds more like big
band playing with big set-ups and hits—
almost like he is releasing all of that unspent
energy from counting all of those
measures of rest behind the timpani. (I
can relate!) Congratulations to Kogan on
a wonderful project.
—Susan Martin Tariq



Aptly titled, Cornucopia offers a bountiful variety of straight-ahead jazz styles and grooves,  as driven by drummer and composer Peter Kogan.  Resisting the temptation to solo more than others (as some might expect a drummer’s album to resemble an extended open-drum solo), Kogan shares the bounty of his colleagues’ talent by featuring, them prominently on every tune. Most striking throughout the album is Kogan’s sense of touch that is not only idiomatic but also tasteful and musically sensitive.  From the opening drum break of the bebop-infused “Frenchy Dog," these original compositions engage listeners with many moods, ideas, and improvisational treats.

Kogan’s inspiration for each piece provides a clear reasoning behind his compositional thought and also the dialogues he creates between drums and the other musicians.  The title track shimmers with the sounds of auxiliary percussion and instrumental soloists Cory Wong (guitar) and Kenni Holmen (soprano sax), in collaboration with pianist Tommy Barbarella to effect the deep listening of an intimate chamber ensemble.  “Bags Check” is a hip mix of Booker T and the MG’s  (I hear the “Green Onions” line in the bass) and Ellingtonian blues-inspired melody, all underpinned with an Art Blakey groove sensibility.  The album is thus also a cornucopia of references to jazz masters whom Kogan has long admired, here re-energized through his own interpretive lens that shares a generosity of spirit to support soloists Barbarella, Wong, Holmen, as well as Charles Lazarus (trumpet), Brian Grivna (alto and tenor sax), Dave Williamson (bass),  Tom Ashworth (trombone), and Mary Louise Knutson (piano).

For listeners new to Peter Kogan, a fun fact: Drumset is not his “day job.”  He is the Principal Timpanist of the renowned Minnesota Orchestra.  His lifelong pursuit of dual proficiencies in musical genres is becoming a thing of the past in this age of over-specialization.  That Kogan maintains this duality as a vital, necessary component of his musical being is a testament to that fundamental quality of Musicianship that is tantamount to achieving excellence in any career, regardless of the style of expression.

Sarah Schmalenberger, PhD
Associate Professor of Music
University of St. Thomas




The following CD were reviewed for the Papatamus Column in Cadence Magazine, July issue and Annual Print Edition.


The drummer PETER KOGAN, whose latest recording The Green Album I called wonderful in the previous Papatamus has, 2 previous releases: CORNUCOPIA [Koganote Records 001] and SOME MONSTERFUL WONDERTHING [Koganote Records 002]. Number 001 was recorded in 2012 and offers up 7 originals [54:32], all solid, and executed  by a pool of musicians in various groupings from quartet to nonette. Kogan’s drumming is clean and active but it is his compositions which are particularly attractive and distinctive. Number 002 was recorded 5/19- 8/28, 2014. The 8 tracks [53:30] were composed during a period when management locked out the Minnesota Orchestra where Kogan was a timpanist. Kogan and his band hails from Minnesota  and his recordings are uniformly excellent, giving lie that one must go only to urban areas in order to find quality musicians with which to play. New York City has hundreds of great musicians as well as hundreds of mediocre ones who get swept up in the competitive cattle call. Like his other releases, Kogan’s compositions shine on #002, although the execution seems less spontaneous.