Emmet Cohen looks back to move forward
There are 100 years of jazz recordings, most available a click away. Emmet Cohen says he wants to make music that honors all of it.
Cohen is two albums into his Masters Legacy Series. The first featured legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb, the second with bass icon Ron Carter. Future releases include Cohen's work with jazz giants Benny Golson, Tootie Heath and George Coleman.
Asked what he learns from these superstars, Cohen says the music comes first. Interacting with players, whose history go back seven decades, is a musical look at some of the greatest moments in jazz history.
Hanging out with these musicians as people can be just as revealing. Cohen says these men carry the history of our country in their stories, and their music reflects that. Another cool side benefit: the elder statesmen soak up the energy of their youthful collaborators, raising their performances to the level of their finest early work.
Teaming in the KNKX studios with his New York bandmates Russell Hall (bass) and Kyle Poole (drums), Emmet Cohen's trio focused on older songs, but infused them with this youthful energy.
Duke Ellington's "Braggin' In Brass" sounded somehow vintage and modern at once, and the Louis Armstrong favorite "Symphonic Raps" from 1928 was anything but an antique. Tacoma's jazz impresario, Kareem Kandi, lent his tenor sax to a lovely reading of the WWII era hit "I Remember You."
The compositions may have a little dust on them, but the Emmet Cohen trio gave them a fresh polish with a reminder that these songs can and should sound new every time they're played.
Still in his 20s, Cohen has explored electronic keyboards and has a deep love for the Hammond B3 organ, but he says the infinite possibilities of the acoustic piano keeps him coming back. The future of his jazz is tightly connected to a hundred years of what came before.