06th Sep 2011

Yet again, as is the way, it’s been quite a time since I last wrote an update for the site. I can assure you that it’s due to the crazy whirlwind of activity that’s happened over the last few months.

So, seeing as today is Labor Day here in the US, and having been for a vigorous 8 mile walk (yes, exercise is still something I have to put in, even when it’s as scarce for me as it is right now!), a few hours’ practice, some laundry and a spot of cleaning my apartment, it seemed the appropriate time to sit down, relax for the rest of the afternoon and detail some of what’s been going on at the headquarters here.

For the next year, I’m going to be living in Brooklyn, New York (NYC), where I have been now for the past month (since August 1st, to be exact). It’s a school-related work-experience year that all foreign students (unless you’ve committed a crime or some-such idiotic act), are entitled to, so I decided around the time I last updated my site, that I wanted to spend mine in The Big Apple. I’m going to be honest, 6 months ago, the thought of moving to NYC was a daunting and extremely scary prospect: the massive buildings, the fast-paced mentality, the horror stories of being a miserable, starving artist etc., etc.
Would it be melodramatic of me to say that this city has potentially saved my life? Answer: yes (haha!). But for those of you who know what transformation took place with me over the last year, you’ll understand what I’m talking about…

NYC is inspiring because it is a city that constantly reminds you to live for NOW. It has amazing beauty, but also edge and grit. It has it’s quieter, more serene areas, but is also has the most over-the-top-Times-Square-crazy-party-life districts, too. It has an abundance of culture, from so many places and backgrounds, that have created this melting pot over a space that’s not as big as you would think. NYC has the ‘tude but you’ll always get help with your luggage in the Subway. You’ll never get bored with both the scenes and up-to-date ideas and creativity produced by anyone and everyone, Einstein to Average Joe.
And people like it when you smile at them in the street. Even if you or they are a little bit crazy…
In short, I am very happy here and inspired. Thought I’d just express that. Which brings me to the proper update…

So, why am I happy? Because I can be who I really am here:

Human Equivalent is back in business, after a 1 year (and a half)’s hiatus (blame the Masters course… ;). I’ve decided to go back to my roots, to a time when I had the same fiery passion to just make some fun and bristling music with a nice wee group of friends, so am returning to the Quartet setting, with sax, electric guitar, electric bass and drums, for that edgy Rock-Jazz I’ve missed for so long.
Human Equivalent NYC features Serghio Jansen on electric guitar, Alex ‘Busby’ Smith on electric bass and Bob Edinger on drums. They are all NYC-based musicians, all incredible and just some of many of the coolest people I’ve met here so far.
We’ve already done a show, got a small recording out of it, so will be posting that up in the near future, as a little taster, unless we get an opportunity to record something with even better quality before then…!

Some other projects I’m going to be getting a chance to be involved in is drummer Rodrigo Bonelli’s Group, who specializes in a mixture of contemporary jazz & Brazilian music. If you’re in the city, try and check this group out!
I’m also having the pleasure of sitting in with vocalist and composer Emily Wolf over the next month, a great singer who I went to school with, for some more straight-ahead jazz, in some great little settings in and around the city!

So, that’s some of the performances I will be doing/have been a part of. But there’s more…

A good friend of mine from Berklee approached me over the summer to inform me that a company in Manhattan was looking for an intern. As I had only just graduated from the Masters and the world was looking like a rather big oyster, the opportunity was something I definitely wanted to participate in.

Yessian Music is a production house for original music, sound design, audio mixing and music licensing in film, television, advertising, gaming and even theme parks. I was a performance major (along with plenty of composing) for my time at school, so you can imagine that I am very willing to learn the ins-and-outs of the business and how it all works, as it wasn’t the avenue I pursued originally.
Needless to say, I am extremely fortunate to have been given this position and can’t express how much I enjoy working there. Not only am I still continuing to learn, but the team at the office have made my settling-in to NYC even more easy, with their supportive work-ethic and friendship! The advertising industry is one that I never even thought about (mainly just because, again, my previous knowledge of how it all worked was minimal), but it is incredibly creative and the aspects involved with analyzing music and film, deciding what might fit and (for the on-site composers), having to produce something for a deadline, with certain criteria, is amazing to be a part of. It’s also giving me the chance to get to grips with the technology side of music and writing, something I always wanted to do, but never had time to knuckle down to during school.

So, fingers crossed that I get to be a part of this experience a little longer…!

I’m really going to try my best to update more regularly from now on, it’s not that hard an activity to do, really! So, watch this space for a Leah Gough-Cooper news update near you! 😉



CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – The List, March 2010

04th Apr 2010

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent – Future Pop

Dumfries-born, Boston-based saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper’s debut album shares three musicians with drummer Patrick Kunka’s album (reviewed a couple of issues back), and merits equally high praise. While certainly accessible, Gough-Cooper’s intelligently crafted music is way too intense to be a credible future pop, nice though that notion is, but open-minded rock/pop/funk/dance fans may well connect with what is going on here.

The saxophonist’s fluent and inventive work on alto and soprano is supported by responsive and focused ensemble playing and strong soloing from the band, featuring Kunka and pianist Alan Benzie (prominent on Fender Rhodes and electric keyboards as well as piano) alongside guitarist Serghio Jansen and bassist Martin Nessi. George Garzone, a leading figure in the Berklee College faculty, is a special guest on tenor saxophone on ‘Night Surf’.

Kenny Mathieson – The List, 29 March 2010.

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Altsounds.com March 2010

28th Mar 2010

With nine instrumentals and an average duration of six minutes, several lead instruments, complex rhythm sections and vague titles that makes you wonder what they were smoking before they made up the set list, calling your album “Future Pop” might be a bit optimistic. However, Leah Gough-Cooper and her band Human Equivalent do have their reasons to be optimistic. Ever since she started out, Gough-Cooper has been hailed as the new jazz sensation and given this album, that’s not a surprise. Entering the world of jazz college only five years ago, when she was sixteen years old, the young saxophonist has been invited to many a jazz festival and played with many a known musician. Drawing inspiration from Frank Zappa and Bjork as much as from Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker, Gough-Cooper didn’t take the easy way, but it pays out on her band’s album debut.

Though it’s her name featuring on the album cover and Human Equivalent is definitely her band, ‘Future Pop’ is nothing like a solo album. It is, in fact, quite surprising how small a role she’s got on her own album. Opener ‘Future Pop’ sees her collaborating on an exciting piece of jazz psychedelics, with her and guitarist Serghio Jansen firing away the solo’s on the rhythmic sounds of the Rhodes piano. With the calming ‘Only a Matter of Time’ and the lounge music of ‘Leaf Blower’ in between, where pianist Alan Benzie serves as the main contributor, it’s only on ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ that she’s the one shining out.

Luckily for her, ‘Politix Street’ is the highlight of ‘Future Pop’. ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ is an amazing piece of fusion – combining soundtrack, pop, jazz and experimental rock – with drummer Patrick Kunka and guitarist Jansen highlighting the lot. But it’s the nervous breakdown jazz of ‘Politix Street’, once again with Jansen and Benzie having a prominent role, that shows why Human Equivalent is Gough-Cooper’s band. Rather than being egocentric and the main musical contributor, she only plays when necessary and inspired. But rather than just releasing a collection of improvisational pieces, songs like ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ are quite epic and so much more than the regular jazz composition. Gough-Cooper’s quality doesn’t lie in her talents as saxophonist only, it’s as a songwriter that she really stands out.

In a way, the album title is not as overoptimistic as it sounded at first. After all, before Elvis made the blues rock and roll, jazz was the youngsters wild musical anthem and with so much originality hidden in her songs, Gough-Cooper does give jazz an edge of excitement again. A new jazz revolution taking over the world doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon though, but in her own jazz land, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that she will be seen as an established name any day now.

– Floris Stoter – AltSounds.com March 28, 2010, 02:23 PM

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Pipeline Magazine, Spring 2010

06th Mar 2010

Young Scottish saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper has come a long way since she won an international scholarship to Berklee College of Music aged just 16. Still only 20, 2009 found her releasing her second album and playing at the London Jazz Festival. Supported in Human Equivalent by guitar, bass, keys and drums, Future Pop was recorded in Brooklyn, New York. On such a self-composed set it’s good to hear the other members of such an obviously talented band featuring significantly, although of course the main feature is Leah’s athletic technique on sax. Beware, it’s so dynamic it might scramble your brain if modern jazz is not your cup of tea. – Alan Taylor.

CD Review ‘The Edge’ – Jazzwise Magazine, Issue 139, March 2010

01st Mar 2010

Patrick Kunka, ‘The Edge’, ShredAhead SA001 (three stars)
Patrick Kunka (d), Leah Gough-Cooper (as), Alan Benzie (p) and Dylan Coleman (b). Rec. Feb 2009.

It’s a bit early to be selecting a new-star album of the year, but this may well turn out to be it. Kunka, who hails from that ultra-hip jazz Mecca of Aberdeen, is a drummer and composer of outstanding promise. He and his similarly youthful Scots posse have amassed honours at Berklee and the New England Conservatory and appeared at jazz festivals in France, Switzerland and Panama in recent months. And yet they’re almost unknown here. Prophets without honour in their own homeland, one might say. Though broadly of the Tony Williams school of drumming, Kunka can also contribute to a ballad performance with taste and sensitivity, as on ‘4am’, Coleman’s bass feature here. Equally impressive is the title track, one of those spare up-tempo themes that sound hip yet are easy to play and beg for a strong solo to suit. Altoist Gough-Cooper is the winner here, a stirring discovery of Kenny Garret-like intensity and creativity. Pianist Benzie has the ethos of Hancock and Corea under his fingers and builds a sophisticated solo. Indeed there are no weak links in this astonishing young band. Read Kunka’s webpage, track down a copy of his debut album on jazzcds.co.uk and enjoy. It might be a while before they play a club near you. – Jack Massarik.


CD Review ‘The Edge’ – The List Magazine, Feb. 2010

27th Feb 2010

Patrick Kunka Quartet – The Edge (4 stars)

This debut album from Aberdeen-born drummer Patrick Kunka was originally issued last summer, but was rather overlooked at the time. Some positive recent response has encouraged him to re-promote it, and it more than justifies that decision. Kunka is currently based in Boston after studying at Berklee College, and is joined here by American bassist Dylan Coleman and two more of Scotland’s bright young talents (also with Berklee connections), pianist Alan Benzie and saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper.
They play a bright and exciting brand of contemporary jazz. All nine compositions are the drummer’s own, drawing on American models, but with an edgy, energised feel. They are attractive in themselves, and also provide fine vehicles for the improvisational talents of each of the players to shine through, with Gough-Cooper’s saxophone work – not for the first time – making a particularly strong impression. – Kenny Mathieson


CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Jazzwise Magazine, Issue 138, Feb 2010

27th Jan 2010

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent ‘Future Pop’ (three stars)
Leah Gough-Cooper (as,ss), Serghio Jansen (g), Alan Benzie (p, Rhodes, kys), Martin Nessi (b) and Patrick Kunka (dr)

A Scottish band made up of former Berklee students and young award winning Scottish jazz musicians is fronted by a saxophonist-composer barely out of her teens. This makes the level of musicianship on this CD all the more astonishing. Style-wise it’s largely jazz-rock fusion given a vigorous makeover. Because it’s a sub-genre of jazz in which a very high level of notes and musicianship is essential it’s no surprise it has its devotees in the rehearsal corridors of Berklee – for evidence listen to Hiromi’s band. Yet, Gough-Cooper’s lyrical alto sax seems also to have absorbed M-Base-type odd metered cryptic patterns and some of the impressive drummer’s bustling grooves certainly demonstrate a line through to drum and bass and hip hop. Nevertheless Future Pop – not sure what that’s meant to say about it – inherits more directly from the world of Return to Forever, the keyboard impressionism of Weather Report, with some 1980s Marcus Miller-style funk thrown in. It’s hardly the most original of causes, but the band manages to attain a high quality of musicianship without sacrificing any of their youthful high spirits. Selwyn Harris


Human Equivalent: EAST announcement

04th Jan 2010

好的節慶絕對不會孤單,總能引起四方共鳴。今年邁向第十八屆的嘉義市國際管樂節,有來自美國、日本、 泰國、新加坡、內蒙古等五國10隊的國外樂團前來共襄盛舉。其中,來自美國的美國類人樂團Human Equivalent Band,更是為了參與今年的嘉義市國際管樂節特別號召來七位自美國、蘇格蘭、南美洲的阿魯巴及智利等四個國家的管樂傑出好手,所組成的一個精兵管樂團。 嘉義管樂節跨海來台在1/1音樂廳,以及1/2中正公園的二場精采演出,讓嘉義市民欣賞到絕佳的管樂美聲。

2007年夏天,美國類人樂團 Human Equivalent Band由目前就讀Berklee College of Music(美國波士頓的音樂學院)身懷音樂絕技的高材生所組成的樂團。薩克斯風樂手首兼作曲家的Leah Gough-Cooper歷經童年時期爵士、搖滾、嘻哈、放克的淬練,在進入美國波士頓的音樂學院兩年後,即開始為樂團創作,直到現在,他仍不斷挑戰各團 員的演奏技能,以及自我的音樂創作極限。

「類人」樂團演奏的風格,既含括沙發音樂及放克的元素,同時也兼有成熟的扎帕風(Zappa), 團員們洋溢的音樂才華,在他們百分百的演奏默契中充分地流露。而類人樂團的演奏風格,也受到不同演奏風格的音樂家含括Herbie Hancock到The Weather Report,以及前衛派的Frank Zappa所影響,再經過團員們的吸收並重新創作詮釋後,成為美國類人樂團自身獨樹一格的演出新風格。樂團在探尋爵士樂的路上,以一種激進兼具實驗性的方 式,作為他們詮釋心中音樂風貌的表演形式,在創新與顛覆的音樂演出中,也不失對傳統音樂的堅持與喜愛。

原為五部爵士樂團,Human Equivalent:EAST則是特別為嘉義國際管樂節組成的樂團,每個團員都曾與爵士大師如Terri Lyne Carrington,Fred Wesley,Randal Corsen及Barry Eastmond合演過,樂手來自世界各地:蘇格蘭的薩克斯風樂手Leah Gough-Cooper,來自南美洲自治國阿魯巴的電吉他手Serghio Jansen,以及智利的貝斯手Martin Nessi,各個樂手都有著令人拍手叫絕的拿手演奏本領。

鼓手Massimo Buonanno (曾與Freda Goodlet 及 John Mayer合作)、鋼琴手Chad Selph,小號Vivek Patel (Alex Brown, Paquito DRivera), 打擊樂Arturo Pena (Orquestra Bacharengue)。



Review from THE HERALD

26th Aug 2008

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent/N.Y. Jazz Orchestra of Scotland
26 August 2008

BARELY a week passes, it seems, without yet another teenage Scottish jazz musician being mentioned in dispatches, usually from a session in Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar, for having swinging and improvising credentials beyond his or her years. And if this concert is any guide, that happy situation looks set to continue.

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, heard here in both nonet and full company editions, continues to forge ahead, producing tight, professional ensemble work across a stylistic range incorporating big-band favourites and more adventurous pieces.

Among those making strong individual contributions were the Young Scottish Jazz Musicians 2007 and 2008 – respectively the bright, energetic Alan Benzie (piano) and the assured, thoughtful tenor saxophonist Joe Wright – although their successor could easily have been present on the bandstand, too.

Saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper, from Dumfries, has already moved on from youth level to study at Berklee, where she’s developing not just her own lithe alto style but a fine line in idiosyncratic compositions, too. Her band are collectively alive to any time signature quirks or twists in the blues form and all solo with confidence and purpose, not least guitarist Ant Law, whose two-handed fretboard manoeuvres on the stylishly grooving Future Pop effected an almost uniform raising of audience eyebrows.

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Review from THE SCOTSMAN

18th Sep 2007

A wee nip of this well-matured island festival leaves a warm afterglow

Published Date: 18 September 2007



THE combination of a scenic, sea-girt setting – ringed by seven single-malt distilleries – with a discerning selection of Scottish and international artists has proved a winning one for the Black Bottle Islay Jazz Festival, the ninth annual outing of which at the weekend drew its now-customary crowd of loyal regulars, as well as numerous first-timers from the island and elsewhere.

There’s something about leaving the mainland behind that seems peculiarly conducive to the festival experience, of whatever musical hue, and that sense of distance from daily concerns is wonderfully easy to come by on Islay, with the drives between concerts parading its ever-changing panoramas of land and water, sunlight and shadow. The particular flavour of each show is heightened by the diversity of local venues, from cosy village halls to working distillery sheds, the 18th-century former laird’s house to the new Gaelic college.

One-off shows during the weekend included something of a damp squib late on Friday from Edinburgh-based jazz/funk/hip-hop crew Live Sciences, whose lumbering, repetitious riffs were unleavened by stilted, frequently unintelligible rapping and largely mediocre solos. By contrast, up’n’coming Dumfriesshire-born saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper, currently studying at the prestigious Berklee College in Boston, enhanced her burgeoning reputation with Saturday’s arrestingly assured and sophisticated set in Port Ellen, her authoritative, atmospheric playing and inventive original compositions complemented by excellent work from her three-piece band, in particular some sparkling interplay between guitar and electric bass.

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  1. MP3: Future Pop ('Future Pop')
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  2. MP3: Leaf Blower ('Future Pop')
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  3. MP3: On the Other Side
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  4. MP3: From the Ash (live at Bar East)
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