Saturday, December 31, 2011

Emmet Cohen: In the Element

Bada Beep Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: In the Element

Emmet Cohen, who composes and plays both piano and Hammond B3 organ, is just 21 years old ... but his talent level is that of an artist twice his age. “Prodigy” is an accurate descriptor; he began to play the piano at age 3, and was studying classical music at the University Of Miami before he was 10. He then was accepted into the Manhattan School of Music’s pre-college division. He majored for seven years in classical piano but, as often is the case, his interest in jazz developed during that period; he soon was playing at top jazz clubs in New York City, and at jazz festivals around the world.

Cohen’s awards are numerous: He won a 2008 Downbeat Award as Outstanding Jazz Soloist, was a recipient of the 2009 NFAA Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellowship, took first place in a 2011 piano competition at the University of West Florida, and — that same year — was one of five finalists for the American Pianists Association’s Cole Porter Fellowship and came in third in the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.

Cohen currently is working toward another music degree at Miami’s Frost School of Music. He also performs as leader or sideman at jazz venues in the NYC and Miami areas.

In the Element, Cohen’s first album, features his basic trio: bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Rodney Green, also in their 20s. Trumpeter Greg Gisbert appears as a guest artist. Six of the 10 tunes are jazz standards; Cohen wrote the rest. This mix allows one to judge how Cohen handles tunes that other artists and groups have performed, and permits an assessment of his compositional skills. He delivers in both cases. The stand-out standards, both ballads, are “For All We Know” and “Goodnight Heartache”; his arrangements match any prior performances I’ve heard.

These musicians demonstrate a maturity that is beyond their years; the only indicator of “youth” is reflected in a “solos for everyone” approach — including the drummer — on most tracks. But golly, that’s what turns young musicians on. And besides, they’re all more than competent soloists.

This is a very promising group, and we’ll be hearing a lot more from them.

No comments: