Sonny Cohn

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Sonny Cohn spent close to a quarter century as the lead trumpeter with the Count Basie Orchestra. Renowned for his signature muted style, he played on almost 200 recording sessions in a career that spanned…
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Sonny Cohn spent close to a quarter century as the lead trumpeter with the Count Basie Orchestra. Renowned for his signature muted style, he played on almost 200 recording sessions in a career that spanned seven decades. Born George Cohn in Chicago on March 14, 1925, he grew up on the city's west side, acquiring his first trumpet from his postal carrier father at age nine. As a teen he played with his sister's band, Frances & Her Rhythm Kings, and at age 20 signed on with Red Saunders, continuing from the drummer's sextet to his subsequent orchestra. During his stint with Saunders, Cohn attracted the attention of swing legend Basie, who convinced the trumpeter to join his ranks in 1960. Not only a gifted if unassuming soloist and skilled arranger, Cohn was clean-cut and responsible, rare qualities in the jazz world, and for two decades he also doubled as the orchestra's road manager. Cohn's vast discography is highlighted by sessions in support of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Sammy Davis, Jr., and he remained a member of the Count Basie Orchestra until 1990, six years after its leader's death. While officially retired, Cohn resurfaced behind Morris Ellis and Von Freeman, and even heart bypass surgery in 2002 failed to derail his musical pursuits for too long. In 2004, he appeared on Living for the Lord, a spiritual release headlined by niece Sheryl Swope-DuPree. Cohn died in Chicago on November 7, 2006, at the age of 81.