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Emmet Cohen Trio – Dirty In Detroit/Live At The Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe (Self-released), 57:03 ****1/2: ****:

(Emmet Cohen – piano; Russell Hall – double bass; Kyle Poole – drums)

Like many jazz pianists, Emmet Cohen has forged a multi-faceted career. He won several piano competitions, recorded a Masters Legacy Series, and has done sessions with jazz greats, including Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Bennie Golson, Jimmy Heath and Christian McBride. His passion for music has translated to teaching and clinician duties for the Lincoln Center Jazz For Young People. He actively participates in classic piano trios and performs regularly with them.

Cohen has self-released a concert album, Emmet Cohen TrioLive In Detroit. With Russell Hall on double bass and Kyle Poole on drums. a lively hour of jazz standards comes to life with vibrancy and exquisite virtuosity. The opening track, Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” (recorded in 1964 and dedicated to producer Teo Macero) is a fitting homage to the jazz icon on his 100th birthday. Cohen emulates the punctuated rhythmic style of Monk with bluesy flourishes and lively swing time. Hall’s walking double bass and Poole’s steady drumming anchor the jam. Cohen weaves spirited harmonics into the syncopation with dazzling runs that feel polyrhythmic. The listener can hear the pianist exhorting his band mates with “Keith Jarrett-like” yells. The trio captures jazz structure and improvisation in a rousing 5 minute performance. “Darn That Dream” has been a popular and jazz standard for eighty years. Billie Holiday, Dexter Gordon and Monk had a kinship for the melancholic ballad and emphasized the moodiness. Cohen opts for a medium Latin groove with brief ethereal interludes that feature modulation and fierce right-hand notation. This hard-driving approach is potent and includes crashing piano chords. Hall has a muscular solo right before the big finish.

Cohen takes on several Fats Waller’s compositions on Dirty In Detroit. Waller was known for developing Harlem stride piano style. Some compare it to ragtime, but there are significant differences. The stride left hand will play a bass note then bass octave or tenth with a following chord. The right hand plays syncopated melody lines with improvisational riffs and fills. “Jitterbug Waltz” is one of Waller’s most appreciated instrumentals. Cohen addresses the playful intro (especially on the higher-register), but folds it into a finger-snapping groove fest with jazzy intonation. His version is different than Waller’s, and feels more like Vince Guaraldi’s. This classic jazz rendition glows with buoyancy and crisp, occasional halting tempo. There is a touch of mellower nuance. Another Waller co-composition “Squeeze Me” captures the low-key  sauciness of Waller, as bassist Hall percolates on counterpoint lead to Cohen who executes a sprightly bit at the end. There are many covers of “You Don’t Know What Love Is”. Jazz artists like Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Chet Baker distill the emotional complexity of this song from The Great American Song Book. Cohen and especially Poole re-make this into a “sharp as a razor” trio jam. There are pulsating chords with competing rhythms and piano runs that build with intensity. The emotional contexts are explored by grittier play.

Cohen distills the organic sentiment of Cedric Walton’s “Bremond’s Blues”. The piano runs are formidable, but are contained in the rhythm context. Cohen’s solos are inventive and harmonic. Switching back to Waller (which seems to be an important element of the repertoire), Cohen combines “Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now” with Hoagy Carmichael’s coyly seductive “Two Sleepy People”. The Waller piece has rich depth and wistfulness with a grandiose touch. Carmichael’s elegiac Southern charm gets a warm and occasionally ebullient lift. Then in a flash, Waller’s masterpiece, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” percolates in an unusually brief 2:20. Cohen emulates the intrinsic Waller timing with cascading flourishes. In a longer traditional jazz performance (over 10 minutes), Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” is ruminative and evocative of this bluesy reverie. While the trio reunites with more tempo, it never strays from the slow-burning, haunting melodic core. Cohen’s playing is incisive and the Latin-infused riffs at the end are compelling. Returning to Waller (another medley)  “Honeysuckle Rose” varies from the honky tonk of the original. Cohen adopts the tempo and feel, but intermingles his own brand of sophisticated piano technique. Then he cuts loose on “Handful Of Keys” in a stride fury.

Emmet Cohen Trio –  Dirty In Detroit is superb jazz!

TrackList: 
Teo
Darn That Dream
Jitterbug Waltz
Squeeze Me
You Don’t Know What Love Is
Bremond’s Blues
Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now / Two Sleepy People
Ain’t Misbehavin’
‘Round MidnightHoneysuckle Rose/Handful Of Keys

—Robbie Gerson

Music and info at Emmet Cohen’s Website:

Logo Emmet Cohen