The Freshest Voice in Jazz

Steve Cohen is the founder and CEO of Music + Art Management Inc. The firm represents several talented artists from different genres. But one of his clients, the main reason I am interested in Cohen’s work, happens to be a jazz musician that everyone is talking about – Vijay Iyer. Aptly dubbed, “The Freshest Voice in Jazz” in his 60 Minutes feature, Vijay has captured the attention of jazz musicians and listeners everywhere, especially young ones.

In an interview with CelebrityAccess, Steve Cohen boasts that all of his artists are “on the ascending portions of their careers”. This is certainly true for Vijay. He recently became a professor at Harvard University and signed a publishing deal with Schott Music. At 43 he is not only a MacArthur Fellow, but he is the only jazz musician to win the Downbeat Critic’s Poll “Quintuple Crown” (winning Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year, and Rising Star Composer) for 2013.

So clearly, Vijay’s talent is to be credited here, but Steve Cohen seems to be doing is his job as well.

Steve got started in the industry playing bass in a regional Upstate NY band, the Units. He worked as manager and agent for the unsigned band, learning the ins and outs of the bands. Eventually, when his performing career never really took off, he took a job as the personal assistant of Linda Goldstein, manager of Bobby McFerrin. He took the job very seriously and eventually promoted to Vice President of the firm, which is called Original Artists. During this time he worked with Bela Fleck, Dianne Reeves, and David Byrne, in addition to McFerrin. Finally after 9 years, he decided to start his own firm, Music + Art Management. Today he represents DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, and poets, Carl Hancock Rux, and Haale, in addition to Vijay Iyer.

In the interview, he described the job of a manager in a nutshell: “Getting all of the zillion details right while still having the time to brainstorm and contemplate the big picture.” He also advised aspiring industry professionals, “Don’t go into this business to make a lot of money. Get into it because you can’t bear to stay out of it.”

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