I found myself late at night having these tunes and melodies and harmonies come out without any prompting," recalls Marc Cohen of his conversion to the piano. Cohen had been playing saxophone -- alto, soprano and tenor -- since "they handed me a saxophone when I was 10 years old." At age 25, in the mid-'70s, Cohen switched to the keyboard, which he had briefly studied as a child. He will offer solo jazz piano performances Friday, 7 and 9 p.m. (with a reception at 8 p.m.), in the Albert Einstein Sky Theater of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
"It was a whole new part of myself I thought hadn't existed because the whole deal on saxophone, when I was coming up, was to get up and burn out, play real intense," Cohen says. "And all of a sudden, here was this impressionist lyrical thing going on inside me that I had known nothing about, sort of rearing its head all by itself. It was such a strong thing that it eventually took me all the way over, not so much because I wanted to play the piano -- although obviously I love it now -- but because I thought I had to do something with that feeling inside me."
The Philadelphia-born and raised Cohen resided in the Washington area from 1973 until a year or so ago when he relocated in New York. Says Cohen, "I get quite a bit of 'Do you still play saxophone?' I'll take it out of mothballs every so often, but it's getting to the point where I'm busy enough on the piano and the saxophone's getting rusty. I don't think we're going to see it anymore."