follow conventional wisdom, one might presume a 21-year-old musician who
chooses to play jazz might go for the trendy – you know, the type of
material that experts say appeals to a “younger audience.” That generally
means a small band led by an electric guitar or a saxophone, wherein the
music is closer to pop instrumental than it is to jazz.
Pianist/composer Emmet Cohen shatters that illusion with In the Element
(Bada Beep Music, 2011). Displaying the maturity and confidence of an
old-school jazz master, Cohen presents an eclectic mix of original songs
and standards, all done in the basic, acoustic trio format. His
accompanists are bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Rodney Green. Trumpeter
Greg Gisbert appears on selected tracks.
“Resentment (Without Reason),” one of four penned by Cohen, is a bit of a
smorgasbord. Several times, the trio changes pace and mood. Whether
up-tempo or laid-back, all three players are locked in, each emoting in
his own way while complementing one another. Cohen’s play can, at
different times, be compared to that of Chick Corea, Bob James or any of
several classic jazz pianists. Toward the end of the piece, Cohen and
Sanders step back so Green can stretch out.
The title song is a dynamic piece that features some tight syncopation,
particularly during some stop-time phrases. Green switches things up from
time to time, emphasizing background rhythm here and showcasing the toms
and cymbals there. It’s one of the shorter pieces in the set, but the
high-speed chase gives the listener a lot to hear.
In addition to Cohen’s originals, In the Element features fresh
interpretations of classics by Cole Porter and the team of Rogers and
Hart, as well as a few other titles.
Cohen began taking lessons at the age of 3. He later studied classical
music in the youth keyboard program at the University of Miami and, at the
age of 10, was accepted into the Manhattan School of Music pre-college
division. His mentors include Cecil Brooks III and Dave Stryker, and he
has shared the stage with such luminaries as Christian McBride, Joshua
Redman, Patti Austin and Maceo Parker.
Cohen performs regularly in the New York and Miami areas.