“Living here on Edgecombe, where Duke lived, and where so many of our heroes gathered to make music together, it’s really brought me closer to that ancestral connection.”
– Emmet Cohen
Pianist Emmet Cohen and his trio weren’t the only musicians to livestream home performances during the early days of the pandemic lockdown. But up the stairs of his 5th floor walk-up in Harlem hosting the weekly “Live From Emmet’s Place” videos, something remarkable happened. Millions of views racked up. And famous guest musicians walked up. It was the place to play when no one could play, and soon it became a phenomenon – or as The Guardian reported, “the most highly watched regular online jazz show in the world.” Such is the joyful appeal of Emmet’s personality and play – a warm conjuring of Ellington’s melodic mastery, Waller’s stride, and Hines’ innovation and punch.
On his second Mack Avenue release, “Uptown in Orbit,” Emmet and his trio mates, bassist-composer Russell Hall and drummer-producer Kyle Poole, both celebrate and advance these sacred connections. Taking inspiration from Emmet’s Harlem residence (near where Duke lived) and Duke’s own “Blues in Orbit” album, the 11-song collection starts with a bang: Willie “The Lion” Smith’s “Finger Buster,” normally a solo piano piece, ignites all 3 musicians in a modern-vintage swing. Cedar Walton’s “Mosaic” keeps the toes tappin’ with a blistering pace – as does Mulligan’s “Venus de Milo” and Emmet’s original “Spillin’ The Tea.” But there are quieter, nostalgic and melancholy moments as well, like Neal Hefti’s “Lil’ Darling” and Hall’s noirish composition “The Loneliest.” Start to finish, fast or slow, Emmet’s is a show that shouldn’t be missed.
A multifaceted player, composer, educator and jazz advocate, Emmet is in the vanguard of his generation’s advancement of music. After earning a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, he began a rigorous schedule of touring and recording. In 2019, he received the Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz from the American Pianists Association. With more than 10 albums under his belt as a leader, he has also performed or recorded with Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Christian McBride, Jimmy Cobb, Jimmy Heath, Tootie Heath, Houston Person – as well as 32 Bar Blues Voices of the Art George Coleman, Kurt Elling and Veronica Swift.