Phil Cohran

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Kelan Phil Cohran (born in Oxford, Mississippi on May 8, 1927) is a jazz musician. He is known most for his trumpet contributions in the Sun Ra Arkestra in Chicago during 1959-1961 and for his involvement in the foundation of the AACM.


Cohran grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and played trumpet in bands led by Jay McShann in the early 1950s, and then in a U.S. Navy band.[1]

He was introduced to the Sun Ra Arkestra by John Gilmore in 1959.[2] His tenure in the Arkestra is documented on records such as Fate In A Pleasant Mood and Angels and Demons at Play. While most of Cohran's contributions were on trumpet, some also show his interest in stringed instruments such as zithers.

When the Arkestra moved from Chicago in 1961, Cohran declined to accompany them. In 1965 he participated in the formation of the AACM. Cohran formed the Artistic Heritage Ensemble with Pete Cosey, future members of the Earth, Wind and Fire horn section and "Master" Henry Gibson (the Motown house percussionist) among others. By this time, he was playing the harp as well as cornet, as well as other brass instruments, such as the french horn, baritone saxophone and percussion. On the Beach is an available recording which documents their music around 1967-68.

Early in his career he invented an instrument he calls the Frankiphone, aka the Space Harp heard on some of Sun Ra's early albums. The instrument is actually an electrified mbira or kalimba. This instrument inspired Maurice White to use an electrified Kalimba in performance with Earth, Wind and Fire.[2] Cohran states he taught Maurice and his brothers music in their youth, much like The Wailers were tutored by Joe Higgs. On the Beach documents their work during those early years and features the Frankiphone on the title track, as well as a piece called "New Frankiphone Blues".

Cohran's sons make up eight of the nine members of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, a brass ensemble consisting of 4 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 euphonium, a sousaphone and drums. Cohran presently teaches voice and music to inner city youth and adults at Northeastern Illinois University's Center for Inner City Studies.


As leader[edit]

  • On the Beach (1968)
  • Spanish Suite (1968) Katalyst / Tizona
  • Armageddon (Conceived in1958 and written down in 1963 performed in 1968) Katalyst / Tizona
  • The Malcolm X Memorial (1968)
  • African Skies (1993, Captcha Records) as 'Kelan Phil Cohran And Legacy'
  • Single (2007) [3]

As sideman[edit]

With Sun Ra


  • Skywatchers of Africa (2002), music composition[4]


  1. ^ Shapiro, Peter. "Blues and the abstract truth". The Wire (magazine). Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  2. ^ a b Szwed, John (1997). Space is the Place. Payback Press. pp. 249–250. ISBN 978-0-86241-722-2. 
  3. ^ Allmusic discography
  4. ^ Kelan Phil Cohran (music composition) (2012) [2002]. Skywatchers of Africa (video) (Planetarium program) (Sudekum Planetarium fulldome ed.). Chicago: Adler Planetarium. Event occurs at 30:01. Retrieved 12 November 2015 – via Vimeo. 

External links[edit]