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It seems jazz vocalist Veronica Swift has been in the music business all of her life, and for good reason: There is the well documented fact that she is the daughter of jazz pianist Hod O'Brien and singer Stephanie Nakasian, and she debuted on record at nine years old with Veronica's House of Jazz (SNOB, 2004). Since that time, Swift has recorded in a variety of settings, including on the uniformly excellent The Birdland Big Band Live (CD Baby, 2018), before producing her full-bore Mack Avenue debut with Confessions (2019), recorded with the trios of pianists Emmet Cohen and Benny Green. With Confessions, Swift gained both commercial traction and critical purchase, all by the deceptively tender age of 25-years old. The singer returns with the socially serious and finely crafted This Bitter Earth.
Batten down the sub-woofer, hold on to your trousers … here comes thrash jazz – 11 songs in a tumultuous 33 minutes. Thrash jazz? That’s what Cameron Graves, keyboardist with LA saxophone star Kamasi Washington, terms these high-speed, high-velocity forays. Imagine Metallica having a crack at cosmic Return To Forever.
Graves and Washington, friends from high school, honed their craft in the West Coast Get Down collective. And just as the saxophonist’s music pays its dues to jazz past, these brief blasts are propelled by drum fusillades from Mike Mitchell that echo Billy Cobham and Lenny White in their fusion pomp. The space-themed artwork and song titles (Sons of Creation, Super Universes) also nod to Chick Corea’s electric RTF.
It’s my guess that, at the moment little Emmet was born, his designated guardian angel was a clumsy klutz who slipped and accidentally showered the entire contents of his gift cupboard all over the bassinet. As a result, not only was baby Emmet fitted with a matched set of epic ears, ten obediently flexible fingers, faultless time and commanding swing, but also an appreciation of the past and abiding respect for the achievements of elders. And even a sympathetic bassist and drummer in attendance, close by his elbow.
I’m sticking to my guess because pianist Emmet Cohen‘s Future Stride is an unusual album by an unusual musician who disregards fashion’s strict dictates by embracing the total potential of jazz piano, technically and stylistically. Refreshingly, he dishes out well-earned dues to the glittering legacies of James P., Willie ‘The Lion’, Tatum, Hines, Wilson, Nat Cole, Buckner, Bud, Erroll, Monk, Garland, Herbie, Jarret and loads of other worthy pianists I’d unfortunately overlooked.
My brother and I ended off 2020 in his living room with a bottle of overpriced whisky (read: contraband under prohibitionist lockdown law) and a jazz concert we’d saved for this very occasion: Live from Emmet’s Place Vol. 37 — Jazzmeia Horn.
Led by multi award-winning American jazz pianist Emmet Cohen and his namesake ensemble, The Emmet Cohen Trio (featuring bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole) and with special guest artist, Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist, Jazzmeia Horn, it was a phenomenal experience.
Since the beginning of lockdown, Cohen has been hosting live stream concerts from his living room in Harlem, New York, every Monday night, featuring some of the most incredible musical talents on the NYC jazz scene — his contemporaries, his friends, his family — just like the private jazz house parties they used to throw on the sly, back in the 1920s.
As proven onstage as well as on such percolating, locomotive recordings as 2018's self released Dirty In Detroit, Masters Legacy Series Vol 1 with Jimmy Cobb (Cellar Live, 2016), 2018's Masters Legacy Series Vol 2 with Ron Carter (Cellar Live), and his regular Monday Night Quarantine Jams on Facebook, pianist Emmet Cohen makes his music with an unabashed, heart-on-you-sleeve exuberance and love for the future as past and vice versa. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Future Stride, his Mack Avenue Records debut, is both a wildly entertaining modern affair and history lesson all rolled into one madcap, immediate whole. In other words, a great way to kick 2020 out on its horrid, hind end and welcome 2021 with broad, open arms.
Emmet Cohen, “Future Stride” (Mack Avenue Records)
Stride provides a starting point on jazz pianist Emmet Cohen’s new album. The opening cut, “Symphonic Raps,” is a New Orleans ragtime tune recorded by Louis Armstrong nearly a century ago, and Cohen plays it as though his piano is rolling downhill, accelerating until he leaves the rhythm section behind.
That momentum sends Cohen on an exploration of other jazz stylings, with stride as an antecedent and recurring reference point. Common threads on “Future Stride” include swinging, often unpredictable rhythms, inventive interplay and wit.
Emmet Cohen, “Toast to Lo”
Future Stride, the forthcoming album by pianist Emmet Cohen, comes by its title honestly. It’s not just about a refurbishment of the stride piano tradition — though Cohen makes sure to demonstrate that idea. It’s also about striding forward with total assurance, knowing that each step will find traction. Cohen has the right disposition for this message, and he has surrounded himself with the right partners: bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole, as well as a front line consisting of saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trumpeter Marquis Hill.
The Jazz Outsider Looks in with Clear Abandon, and a Beguiling Manner
When Veronica Swift, 27, slips into the comfortably sublime chorus of “The Man I Love” up close and personal, that’s when I fell in love — with her and her new album, This Bitter Earth, out March 19, 2021 on Mack Avenue Records.
If you were born in this Millennium, and you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t know a goddamned thing about the reversal of melodic fortunes of this blessed Gershwin tune, the pop song of its day, circa 1920s. The “Lady, Be Good” musical reject finally appeared in a 1927 government satire, “Strike Up the Band,” was later popularized by Billie Holiday, and embraced by countless young women. Maybe even your mom, when celebrating her golden wedding anniversary by the piano.
The guitarist and singer speaks frankly about his new single “Our Voices Matter,” his lifelong encounters with racism, and his hopes for a new era in the U.S.
Since his rise as a teenage recording artist in South Africa, guitarist and singer/songwriter Jonathan Butler has gained a high international profile with music that crosses boundaries between pop, R&B, smooth jazz, and gospel. His new single, “Our Voices Matter,” is a call for unity against racial injustice in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. It features Butler with a top-flight list of peers including Rick Braun, Candy Dulfer, Dave Koz, Marcus Miller, Maysa, Will Kennedy, Jeffrey Osborne, Arlington Jones, Ruslan Sirota, Antonio Sol, and Ramon Yslas. We spoke with Butler from his home in Los Angeles, where he’s lived for over 25 years, about the song and the deep personal history behind it.
Thirty-nine years in and still dropping cracking grooves and catchy melodies, Yellowjackets return with their 25th album, which finds the quartet revisiting original material from its past discography.
If you’re like me, you’ve jumped on or off Yellowjackets’ train at various times in their career. Who could resist their eponymous 1981 debut, a blast of fresh L.A. jazz-funk? I personally dove deep during their ’86-’87 period and the burners Shades and Four Corners. Regardless of year, though, they’ve retained an instantly recognizable sound: knotty drum grooves, brain-glued melodies, clever harmonies, and extended, rip-roaring solos.
You can remember him from the Bratislava Jazz Days 2011 festival, where he performed as a 29-year-old super talent! His name is Harold López-Nussa, he is 37 years old (read the exclusive interview here) and he was born into a musical family in Havana. For the first twenty years he devoted himself exclusively to classical music, but his life changed when he won the piano competition of the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 2005. Latin Jazz quickly became his passion! Two years ago he released his latest album, Un Día Cualquiera (Mack Avenue, 2018), which was a mixture of compositions by classical Cuban composers and original compositions by Harold Lopez-Nuss in a beautiful performance by the trio. This time, however, Harold comes in the form of the latest album called Te Lo Dije, which automatically takes you out onto the streets of Havana, where during an evening stroll you will hear music straight from people's homes, sometimes breaking into parties and paladars or a nightclub. Harold López-Nussa, who lives in Havana, captures all these mentioned moments as a combination of jazz and Cuban pop music! The album features Harold's brother and Ruy drummer Adrián López-Nussa, double bass player Julio César González and trumpeter Mayquel González. The album also features some special guests such as African-Cuban superstar Cimafunk, French accordionist Vincent Peirani, famous Cuban reggaeton singer Randy Malcom and singer Kelvis Ochoa and others.
Jazz Renaissance man John Beasley joins Tim to talk about his multifaceted career and life in jazz music. He’s a jazz pianist, a composer, an arranger, a music director and a producer. And chances are you’ve heard some of his work through film, TV or commercials. In this episode, John talks about his a one-of-a-kind music lineage and how he balances his many music loves.