Emmet Cohen’s jazz ascendancy takes a huge step forward on his latest Mack Avenue release
Emmet Cohen – Uptown In Orbit – Mack Avenue Music Group MAC1195LP mocha-colored stereo double vinyl (includes digital download), 56:49 *****:
(Emmet Cohen – piano; Russell Hall – double bass; Kyle Poole – drums; Patrick Bartley – alto saxophone; Sean Jones – trumpet)
Each successive generation of influential jazz artists includes several pianists. Among these players is Emmet Cohen. Utilizing a variety of styles, his innovative technique and compositional skills are fresh and embrace historical origins. In his early thirties, Cohen has established himself as a band leader fronting a trio for several years. He is also active as a musical educator and during the pandemic created an internet series (Live From Emmet’s Place) that garnered positive critical reception. Additionally, the pianist produced a Mastery Legacy Series featuring jazz legends, including Bennie Golson, Ron Carter and Jimmy Cobb. His latest release from Mack Avenue Music Group (Uptown In Orbit) is another significant career moment. In addition to his long-time trio members (Russell Hall/double bass; Kyle Pool/drums), Cohen expands the lineup on five tracks with the addition of trumpeter Sean Jones and alto saxophonist Patrick Bartley. Side A (on the mocha-colored vinyl) opens with Willie Brown’s lively stride opus, “Finger Buster”. Cohen glides through the number with energy and precision, paying homage to icons like Jelly Roll Morton. The listener can feel the chemistry of the trio. The title track begins with an ethereal, spacious piano intro and drummer Poole counters with vibrant play. In this arrangement, trumpet and saxophone share a harmony lead Cohen and the rhythm section offer a medium-swing groove with subtle tempo adjustments. Jones has the first extended solo and his smooth and at times punctuated intonation is excellent. Bartley follows with a jaunty run (with tonal stretching) and the quintet has a straight-ahead translation. Cohen comes in hot with forceful chords and spiraling notation.
Switching gears, another Cohen original (“My Love Will Come Again”) is an atmospheric ballad featuring the trumpet and saxophone tandem. Bartley and Jones bring a tender resonance to the jam. Cohen’s feathery accents in the final minute are a nice complement. Back in trio mode, “Spillin’ The Tea” breezes along with a funky stride piano that includes a call and response with drums. Cohen’s solo is graceful with halting phrasing and sweeping modulation. The next cover (also trio) is Neal Hefti’s “Li’l Darlin’”. A staple of Count Basie’s repertoire, Cohen captures the bluesy vibe and low-key syncopation of Basie’s unique style, but adds the right touch of flourishes. Returning to quintet, “The Loneliest” has a frenetic bebop resonance with scintillating trumpet and saxophone solos. Cohen’s run is dazzling and Jones contributes nice drum fills. In a concise arrangement, Gerry Mulligan’s “Venus De Milo” is exemplary in the interplay between piano, bass and drums. Cohen’s solo is lithe and has some accessible rhythmic piano runs. Hall gets to kick off “Distant Hallow” as the horn and saxophone exchange freely. This is highly improvisational with polyrhythmic articulation and sharper tonality. Cohen navigates through a variety of tempos. After studio-effect drum opening, Cedar Walton’s “Mosaic” establishes a medium-swing groove with Cohen adding sustained up tempo play. After a brief reprise of “Uptown Orbit” with a spoken word message about music education, the trio finishes with another legend, Duke Ellington (“Braggin’ The Brass”). Cohen percolates with unbridled enthusiasm and deft articulation.
This vinyl of Uptown In Orbit is a great jazz album. Cohen is an integral part of the new jazz vanguard. He manages to intermingle traditional and modern aesthetics. This vinyl comes with a digital download and is also available on CD.
Emmet Cohen – Uptown In Orbit
Side A: Finger Buster; Uptown In Orbit; My Love Will Come Again
Side B: Spillin’ The Tea; Li’l Darlin’; The Loneliest
Side C: Venus De Milo; Distant Hallow
Side D: Mosaic; Uptown In Orbit (Reprise); Braggin’ In Brass.
More Information about Emmet Cohen can be found at Mack Avenue Music Group: