Monday, April 3, 2017

The Side Door Live, Cohen & Cobb, + Hear the Berne

Pianist Emmet Cohen, 27 years old, has been one busy musician over the last decade. He graduated from The University of Miami, did graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music, has worked with bassist Christian McBride, with drummer Ali Jackson, is the music conductor for Lea DeLaria, and has toured schools as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Jazz for Young People" programs.  He's recorded with drummer Herlin Riley, trumpeter Brian Lynch and has three CDs as a leader (the new one is reviewed below.)

On Friday night April 7, young Mr. Cohen brings his Trio to The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme.  Joining him for the two-set program will be bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Joe Saylor. You'll hear that his music features both standards and originals plus he's one of the finer pianists playing today. Not just technically but with a deep emotional well that gives new life to the older material he chooses to play.

The Emmet Cohen Trio hits the stage at 8:30 p.m.  For more information, go to or call 860-434-2600.

To learn more about the pianist, go to

Here's a track from Cohen's 2010 debut CD with bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Rodney Green:

On Saturday night, The Side Door welcomes the fine young harmonica player Grégoire Maret and his Quartet.  A native of Geneva, Switzerland, Maret has worked with many artists, from Pat Metheny to Bebel Gilberto to Marcus Miller to David Sanborn to the late vocalist Jimmy Scott.  He's issued two CDs as a leader, the latest being "Wanted", issued by Sunnyside Records in April of 2016.

Joining him in Old Lyme will be Romain Collin (piano, keyboards), Antoine Katz (bass), and John Davis (drums).  Expect a mix of standards, originals, and the occasional "pop" tune.  For reservations, call 860-434-2600.

To find out more about the versatile musician, go to

Here's a funky take of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" from the new recording:

Emmet Cohen's latest release is the first in a series he's dubbed the "Masters Legacy Series" (which he explains in the video posted below.)  "Volume 1" (Cellar Live Records) finds the pianist in the company of bassist Nakamura and special guest, drummer Jimmy Cobb. Although the drummer is 6 decades older than Cohen, they certainly speak the same musical language.  Mr. Cobb, while not as prolific a session player as bassist Ron Carter, has played with scads of musicians and groups, from Miles Davis to Dizzy Gillespie to Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, George Coleman, and Dave Holland. The drummer has led his own bands and recorded, at least, six albums under his own name.

For this album, the band (augmented by alto saxophonist Godwin Lewis on two of the 11 tracks) recorded front of an invited audience in the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City. The Trio romps through the opening three tracks starting with a fun take of Ferde Grofe's "On The Trail" then sliding right into "Tin Tin Deo" and "Two Bass Hit" before a gentle and generous reading of "When I Fall In Love."

Saxophonist Louis makes his first appearance on Cohen's uptempo "Folk Song", his warm tone blending sweetly with the Trio.  The leader's rolling two-handed solo is a highlight as are the single-note runs he adds throughout.  Louis also appears on the bluesy "Hard Times", a track that Mr. Cobb first recorded with David "Fathead" Newman - one cannot miss the gospel feel that both Louis and Cohen add to the swinging feel of the rhythm section.

photo by John Abbott
The program closes with Cohen's "Concerto for Cobb", a high-energy swing piece on which the drummer not only lays down a strong tempo but also adds smart fills and creates a powerful solo. His energy does not ebb at any time during the concert or on the recording.  Bassist Nakamura does his usual excellent job of keeping the music moving forward, laying down a melodic or percussive foundation on every track.  Cohen's solo are, more often than not, joyful, playful, and pleasing.  He's played standards throughout his career and understands that songs familiar to a jazz audience need an imaginative touch yet he also makes the music accessible to those unfamiliar with the "canon."

Emmet Cohen is onto something really good with his "Masters Legacy Series" and his choice of Jimmy Cobb as his initial collaborator is quite inspired.  You will be inspired as well by this delightful album. Let's see and hear where this goes from here.

For more information, visit Emmet Cohen's website (listed above) or go to

Here's a preview:

Over the past decade, pianist Matt Mitchell has made quite an impact on contemporary music.  Not only does he lead his own groups but he is also a member of the Dave Douglas Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls, Jonathan Finlayson's Sicilian Defense, Anna Webber's Simple Trio, and Tim Berne's Snakeoil (and there are many more).

For his new recording, "FØRAGE" (Screwgun Records), Mitchell turns to the music of Tim Berne and rearranges, reimagines, and a reworks a number of Berne works for solo piano.  I have listened to Tim Berne for over three decades, since he came east and began to work with saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill. His recording career began with quartet of self-released albums before going on to record for JMT, Soul Note, Winter & Winter, Columbia, Thirsty Ear, and others plus starting Screwgun Records in 1996.  If you've listened to Berne's music, you know its a mashup of numerous styles and approaches, with long episodic compositions, raucous sounds, frenetic beats, and experiments with textures and sounds.  While Snakeoil has issued three albums on ECM (and one on Screwgun), he has not tempered his approach.

Robert Lewis image
On their own in a solo setting, Berne's music and Mitchell's interpretations take myriad forms.  There are moments, such as throughout"ŒRBS", when one can hear the influence of Keith Jarrett's more "open" improvisations.  The heavy chords that lead into "TRÃÇĘŚ" give way to high-energy exploration of melody and improvisation.  There's even a touch of "boogie-woogie" for just a few seconds in Mitchell's active left hand that catches the ear.  The ballad feel at the onset of "RÄÅY" goes away but the piece picks up and loses speed over the course of seven minutes.  "CLØÙDĒ" also begins as a ballad and stays for the first third of the 13-minute piece. The pianist starts pushing the tempo, there's a hypnotic flow in the rhythmic pace, and, soon, the piano begins to thunder, shards of melody flying off the right hand. But the bombast simmers down as the music slows and returns to the calm of the opening minutes.

photo by Peter Gannushkin
You need to play "FØRAGE" all the way through to understand the story Matt Mitchell is telling.  The music of Tim Berne is often thorny yet a different kind of beauty also inhabits the music.  Don't waste time attempting to categorize this music; to these ears and mind, the various shapes and melodies are in a class of their own.  But, do listen. If you like a challenge and are willing to follow the lead of the composer and pianist, this is an amazing journey.

For more information, go to

Take a listen:

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