Friday Apr 10th, 2020
Award-winning Jazz pianist, composer, YoungArts alumnus and mentor Emmet Cohen continues to uplift audiences through music during these difficult times alongside bassist and fellow YoungArts alumnus Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, The Emmet Cohen Trio performed at world renowned venues such at Lincoln Center Jazz, the Detroit Jazz Fest, and Mezzrow Jazz Club. Based in New York City, the Trio is now quarantined together in Cohen’s apartment and are bringing live jazz music to all every Monday night from his living room at 7:30 PM ET via Facebook Live with “Live from Emmet’s Place.”
On Monday, April 13, National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) will livestream the concert to amplify the artists’ efforts to bring positivity and joy to audiences around the world.
To get you ready and into the right spirit, we had a chat with Emmet about their music, the virtual concert series and how to support jazz musicians.
How important is it that you can continue to play with Russell and Kyle right now?
I think that music is one of the great unifiers in the world, and as cliché as it is to say, it’s a universal language. They call it that not because anyone can understand it but because it unites people in a very special and particular way, especially when watching people improvise in a jazz setting, in a jazz context. I think it really shows how people can work together to create something bigger than the sum of the parts. Music is so important in the time of coronavirus. We are so lucky that we can turn to music when the darkness strikes. We always have something to work on, something to think about. We’re never bored as musicians. We’re always searching and it’s important to be able to do that as a band. Russell, Kyle and I are so lucky to be quarantined together and get to achieve that.
What is your vibe together?
We’ve been playing together for about seven years now, maybe eight. If the people playing music consider each other family, the music is going to sound harmonious. Families are harmonious. They’re meant to be together. I would describe our vibe as very free, very studied. It’s very unique because we all have such strong personalities and are so grounded and rooted in what we want to say and what we want to do in the world. It’s a very unique group of three people coming together and sharing a communion and the vibe. We’ve studied over 100 years of jazz and other African American music forms, classical music, musical theater. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve played a lot of early jazz from the 1920s and 30s and we love bebop from the 40s, hard bop and post-bop of the 50s and 60s and all the stuff up until the turn of the century. We absorbed it all and part of our concept and vibe of playing together is to use all of the sounds, vibes and feelings that we have felt, heard, created, and combine them in a unique way.
What are your plans for the concert on April 13th?
We try to be in the moment. Whatever comes to us. We’ve played so much music and we have such a vast repertoire that we don’t necessarily need to plan them out. If someone passes away like the great Ellis Marsalis who transitioned this week, we honor them with a tune. We also take requests from people on the live feed. We just choose things that feel good in the moment, that are relevant to what’s going on today and that will uplift people. When we got off the road after our last gig on March 16, people asked us if we would do something online so we started this concert series and it was a huge success. We continue to bring music to people and we received the feedback that this has helped many in this time when they don’t really have much to turn to. We are trying to uplift people. We’re doing this to bring a sense of community back. We’re reaching all the people who’ve touched us and who’ve helped us along the way, and it’s a very symbiotic relationship between the audience and the musicians.
What has the virtual performance experience been like?
It’s a very different way of connecting with audiences. It’s almost like a TV show rather than a live performance, and usually we feed off the energy of the audience. In this case, we just have to know that people are taking in our sound waves and are experiencing it in their own way. We just try to go into it with an open mind and try to have fun and try to share something as a group. I think people really relate to that and find those same feelings inside themselves.
How is this current situation affecting jazz musicians and how can audiences support the artists?
I think that it’s the jazz musicians’ job to still support the audiences. The situation is obviously very detrimental to anyone who has to provide a service anywhere. So obviously, the situation is also quite detrimental to jazz musicians and to jazz clubs that still have to pay rent and don’t have any audiences, and were maybe struggling before anything like this happened. Audiences can support their favorite artists by reaching out to them, by buying their merchandise. I just started a really cool subscription portal on my website. It provides exclusive content such as previously unreleased concerts, blog posts, thoughts about music and more. People have been more than happy to support, especially at this time when there aren’t any gigs. I think if we bring the music to the people, people will donate and support us in various ways. We played a concert a few days ago and my great mentor Shelly Berg from University of Miami sent us donation and thanked us for the concert. Little gestures like that go a long way in times like these. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see that and how much I appreciated him just thinking of me.
What is the link to subscribe to the newsletter so everyone can stay informed?
The best way is for people to visit my website to subscribe or to support and become a member.
You can stream “Live from Emmet’s Place” Monday, April 13 at 7:30 PM ET via Facebook Live on the YoungArts Facebook page.
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