“Live from Emmet’s Place” streams
BY PETER NJOROGE CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Music is something I take with me everywhere that it’s even quasi-appropriate. Whether I’m cooking, cleaning, working, running, in class, driving, in the grocery store or in the shower, the chances of me listening to something while I’m doing it are quite high.
I really do like a lot of different genres and try to check out a lot of music throughout each day. But at this point, Emmet Cohen’s weekly Monday night streams make up the vast majority of my musical diet.
Cohen (piano) and his bandmates Russell Hall (bass) and Kyle Poole (drums) are now over 40 weeks into one of the most important jazz programs, in my opinion, in the history of the music.
While performers across all genres have struggled during the pandemic, jazz is fringe music that is distinctly collaborative and community-oriented, posing greater challenges to musicians. While some clubs — places where musicians can tell their story every night and get paid for it — remain open, the likelihood of them being able to pay as many musicians as well as they could before is low.
As with most other art forms, the transition to digital content for jazz was — and still is — tough. To me, the experience of being in a jazz club is quite difficult to recreate and very central to the experience. But Cohen, Hall and Poole are showing that it’s not impossible.
Serendipitously, the trio live together in Harlem, affording them a unique opportunity to safely continue creating music even during the most extreme lockdown restrictions. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, they’ve been streaming gigs from their living room free of charge on YouTube.
In their own right, each of the three are stand-outs in the jazz scene in New York City and demonstrate a mastery of their instruments and the genre that I had no idea still existed — especially at such a young age. Though the pandemic limits us in many conventional ways, these musicians are granting people access to music that would rarely make it out of the best clubs in New York otherwise.
Throughout the night they cycle between jazz standards, original tunes and a steady stream of phenomenal guest artists that come to join the band. More than any other virtual event I’ve attended, they manage to preserve a sense of originality and vibrancy that is honestly uplifting. It’s the closest experience I’ve had to attending live music by far and unlike live music, you can access nearly all of their previous gigs online at any time.
For me, their music has been the one and only highlight of the pandemic and their gigs are something I attend beyond religiously. Each night could be sold as a record and many of them, while virtual, are the best jazz gigs I’ve ever seen. Even more than the music, the three radiate a sense of positivity and unity that reminds me of what the world was like before masks. Every Monday night, the gods are smiling — I’m sure of it. Bravo!