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    Kohon, Harold

    Violinist who studied with Georges Enesco in Paris and went on to establish a career for himself that spanned six decades. 

     

    One of his earliest recordings dates way back to 1940, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Musical Offering, BWV 1079, on which he played second violin.  He would be playing second fiddle to no one soon.  In 1944, he graduated to first violin as a member of the American String Quartet in a concert at Phillips Academy’s George Washington Hall in Andover, Massachusetts. 

     

    He was also featured on WYNC Radio on 12th August 1944 in a victory concert at the New York Public Library and 7th July 1945 as a member of the City Amateur Symphony in a concert at Central Park.  On 7th September 1945, he was credited with performing Richard Arnell’s “Violin Concerto, Op. 9”, of which a pair of sound discs are available. 

     

    Other recordings from around the same period of time include a concert with the National Orchestral Association on 22nd April 1946, this time including the aforementioned Richard Arnell concerto, as well as the music of Stanley Bate, Gordon Jacob, Henry Purcell, and William Walton.  Another recording from 18th December 1946 includes works by Frederic Chopin, Walter Eiger, and Henri Wieniawski.  

     

    On 9th January 1950, he performed in concert with the NOA in a program that included compositions of Franz Joseph Haydn, George Kleinsinger, Henry Purcell, Igor Stravinsky, and Henri Vieuxtemps. 

     

    In 1963, he formed The Kohon String Quartet.  Its line-up included Harold, along with Raymond Kunicki, Kay Schweitzer and Bernard Zaslov.  One of their first recordings was an LP of clarinet quintets of Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Carl Maria von Weber.  In 1967, a new edition of the quartet tackled Arnold Schoenberg’s “Quartet No. 3, Op. 30”.  This version of the quartet included Harold, along with three new members:  Eugenie Dengel, David Moore, and Andrew Svilokos. 

     

    Eventually, Aaron Shapinsky supplanted Harold.  Perhaps it was because Harold was about to change tacks and embark on a career as a session musician.  In 1968, he helped ring in the Yuletide on Snowfall:  The Tony Bennett Christmas Album.  Tony used him again 1970’s Something. 

     

    In 1971, he was in the recording studio with Freddie Hubbard, laying down tracks for 1972’s First Light.  Other albums on which Harold appeared in 1972 included a pair of Hank Crawford offerings, Help Me Make it through the Night and We Got a Good Thing Going, and Jackie & Roy’s Time and Love.  In 1973, he recorded Jacaranda with Luis Bonfa, Deodato 2 with Deodato, Black-Eyed Blues with Esther Phillips; the same year, he appeared on at least four new releases:  Don Sebesky’s Giant Box, Sonny Stitt’s Mr. Bojangles, Stanley Turrentine’s Don’t Mess With Mister T., and Grover Washington Jr.’s two-volume Soul Box. 

     

    Things were no less busy in 1974, with recordings of Grover’s Mister Magic, Milt Jackson’s Olinga, and Freddie Hubbard’s Polar AC.  Again, store shelves were lined with more recordings featuring Harold:  Stanley Clarke’s self-titled album, Bob James’ simply titled One and Two, and Don McLean’s Homeless Brother.  Harold also spent part of 1974 and 1975 recording Upchurch/Tennyson with Tennyson Stephens and Phil Upchurch.  Around the same time, The Best of Paul Desmond was done and dusted, featuring recordings that spanned 1972-1975. 

     

    Harold continued to be in demand in 1975, appearing on Good King Bad by George Benson, I Hear A Symphony by Hank Crawford, The Chicago Theme by Hubert Laws, a pair of Esther Phillips albums, For All We Know and What a Difference a Day Makes, The Rape of El Morro by Don Sebesky, Circle of Love by Sister Sledge, and Feels so Good by Grover Washington, Jr.  Oh, and he also found time to record House of the Rising Sun with Idris Muhammad. 

     

    In 1976, he performed on the following albums:  End of a Rainbow by Patti Austin, Caliente! by Gato Barbieri, Three by Bob James, Romeo and Juliet by Hubert Laws, Shoogie Wanna Boogie by David Matthews, Rhythms of the World by Van McCoy, The Mean Machine and Red Beans by Jimmy McGriff, Jaco Pastorius’s eponymous solo debut, and Esther Phillips’ Capricorn Princess.  He also recorded material that would eventually wind up on the Stanley Turrentine albums, The Man with the Sad Face and Stanley Turrentine with Strings. 

     

    In 1977, he appeared on Chet Baker’s You Can’t Go Home Again, Galdston & Thom’s American Gypsies, Eric Gale’s Ginseng Woman, Meco’s Music Inspired by Star Wars and other Galactic Funk, Art Webb’s Mr. Flute, and Lenny White’s Big City.  In the same year, he was back in the recording studio with Bob James for the laconically titled Heads. 

     

    In 1978, he played violin on George Benson’s In Your Eyes, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Boogie-Woogie String Along for Real, Dave Valentin’s Legends, and the soundtrack of The Wiz.  Again, he reunited with Bob James in the studio, recording tracks that would eventually appear on Touchdown. 

     

    As if he wasn’t busy enough, Harold was also a member of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra between 1974 and 1979. 

     

    In 1979, he appeared on eclectic triad of albums, B. Baker Chocolate Co.’s self-titled affair, Carly Simon’s Spy, and Frank Sinatra’s boxed set, Trilogy.  The Harold Kohon Ensemble is credited on the Willie Colon-Ismael Miranda collaboration, Doble Energia, released in 1980.  Other releases featuring Harold from the same year include Spyro Gyra’s Carnaval and Chasing the Sun and the soundtrack of Fame.  He was also in the studio with McCoy Tyner recording 13th House. 

     

    In 1982, he performed with Change on Sharing Your Love, Willie Colon on Corazon Guerrero, Enchantment on Enchanted Lady, Julio Gutierrez on Viva America Latina, and Spyro Gyra on Incognito.  Harold Kolon’s ensemble is again credited on the Willie Colon-Hector Lavoe album, Vigilante, released in 1983.  The same year saw Harold rejoin Ismael Miranda on his album, The Master, and perform with Aretha Franklin on Get It Right.  In 1987, he appeared on the Michael Bolton album, The Hunger.  He was also pressed into service for the soundtrack of 1988’s School Daze. 

     

    In the 1990s, CD recordings of The Kohon String Quartet began to materialize, including American String Quartets 1900-1950, The Early String Quartet in the U.S.A., Ionisation – Music of Varese, Penderecki and Ligeti, and Weber:  Quintet in B flat; Concerto for Clarinet No. 1.  His last recording, believe it or not, appears to be the Backstreet Boys’ 1997 album, Backstreet’s Back. 

     

    There are myriad opportunities to hear this versatile musician on CD, however, including The Best of Meco, The Essential Jaco Pastorius, and Ken Burns Jazz:  The Story of America’s Music.

     

    Van McCoy recordings

    The Shuffle (Van McCoy)

    That’s the Joint (Richard Harris/Van McCoy)

     

    Frank Sinatra recordings

    That's What God Looks Like To Me (Stan Irvin/Lan O'Kun)

    Reprise RPS 49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)

     

    Theme from "New York, New York" (Fred Ebb/John Kander)

    Reprise RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)

     

    Sources:

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