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7 April 2010

Jimmy Fallon’s music booker Jonathan Cohen rules

Today, just a pointer & a “hell yes” to this Austin American Statesman article which gives props to Jimmy Fallon’s music booker Jonathan Cohen. A long time pal to The National in his tenure as a journalist for Billboard, Cohen has figured out a way to program musical guests for an age of YouTube & Hulu clips. His curatorial choices are intended as much for viewing online by office drones & bloggers the day after broadcast as they are for the wide-demographic audiences viewing Fallon’s show in real time.

Some passages from the article followed by a recent clip:

    The music booker on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” is a 33-year old former Billboard reporter named Jonathan Cohen. Inside of a year, he has made that embattled late-night show broadcast TV’s most interesting venue for live music. Nothing else comes close.

    “In my earliest discussions with Jimmy, the thing that was most important to him was variety, almost like someone’s iPod,” Cohen said Tuesday. “That’s the principle on which I’m booking.” To that end, Cohen occasionally books acts that have been out of the spotlight for a long period or legendary bands that have never played on TV before. For example, when the ’90s rock band Jawbox wanted to promote the 2009 reissue of their 1994 album “For Your Own Special Sweetheart,” instead of disrupting their children’s lives with a tour, they played a reunion gig on “Fallon.”

    It helps the show that the hip-hop act the Roots serves as house band. The crew brings both impeccable chops and hip-hop’s world-view to the notoriously bland world of late-night TV bands. (Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is also an infamous record nerd, which can’t hurt.)

    “The Roots also provides a distinctive element that allows us to do some collaborations that you might not otherwise see,” Cohen says. “That’s very appealing to artists.” On April 2, “Fallon” played host to Liquid Liquid, a New York band who blended post-punk’s spare instrumentation with disco and dub reggae rhythms and arrangements. The band was active only from 1980 to 1983, though they began playing together again now and then in 2008. Their song “Cavern” became part of hip-hop’s grammar when Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five sampled the bassline for the anti-cociane anthem “White Lines.” Now, there was no real reason to book Liquid Liquid. The band’s last album was an anthology of old material released in 2008.

    “That started as a conversation with Questlove,” Cohen said. “I don’t think he knew the band was active and I had never seen them. I floated the idea to him about the Roots playing ‘Cavern’ with the band because I don’t think a lot of younger people knew where that sample came from.”

The clip features an iPad, natch.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis

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