I don’t know when the word cats came to apply to jazz musicians. I’m not even sure it’s still in use. Current terminology or not, last week I spent several hours with two of the coolest cats around—Jimmy Cobb and Emmet Cohen. The occasion was a live concert/recording session featuring Mr. Cobb, the 87-year old drummer and jazz legend.
Their performance,* the first of the Masters Legacy Series, is the joint project of Emmet Cohen, the stunningly talented jazz pianist, and Cory Weeds of Cellar Live Records. Cohen’s concept is “to honor remaining masters of our music and celebrate them not only for what they did 50 or 60 years ago, but for the spirit, humanity, and love they manifest and display currently.”
I went knowing nothing about drummers and came away understanding that despite my ignorance, I know a great drummer when I hear one. It was fun to watch the interchange between Cohen and Cobb before each piece. The 25-year-old Cohen was very respectful of “Mr. Cobb” and at the same time clear on what he wanted each song to communicate. For his part, Jimmy Cobb nodded, “Sure, sure,” and then BAM! They were off and playing—no fussing, no pretense, just talented musicians fueled by their passion.
Emmet Cohen began playing the piano when he was three years old. At age five, he was already giving piano recitals. The list of his achievements is lengthy, as you can read on his website here. What sets Cohen apart from most jazz pianists are his improvisations. Yes, he is technically proficient, but his improvisations are impossible to explain or describe. The adjective that comes to mind is “celestial.” If you want to hear him on CD or live, consult his website. For my part, I am looking forward to hearing the next cool cat in the Masters Legacy Series.
*The concert also included the bassist Yasushi Nakamura and special guest Godwin Louis on the alto saxophone.
Photos by William C. Popik, M.D.