Live reviews

Dispatches from Montreal (8): Emmet Cohen Trio at FIJM 2023

Emmet Cohen Trio
(Studio TD, FIJM Montreal. 3 July 2023)

Emmet Cohen, Philip Norris, Kyle Poole. Photo by David Beckett.

For anyone who believes in jazz, this gig by the Emmet Cohen Trio must be one of the most heartening sights of the year. In fact, thank god for the press pass which got me in to see it, because the queue to hear this joyful and energetic band doing a free-admission gig was VAST.

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The audience – notably compared to the Herbie Hancock concert which I left prematurely to get to this concert – gave palpable proof of the FIJM’s recently-released stats (LINK) about how the festival audience is getting younger. And they were totally involved, and cheering this band to the rafters.

Emmet Cohen commented that he had last appeared at the festival as part of Christian McBride’s Tip City trio with Dan Wilson in 2017 (although he had also sat in with Michael Mwenso’s band’s 6pm set yesterday). I reviewed that unforgettable gig in 2017 (LINK) , so it is a joy to reflect on quite how far Emmet Cohen has progressed since then.

The simplest fact to grasp is this: Youtube views on “Emmet’s Place” are now over 26 million (HERE) . This is an artist whose response to the pandemic was to adapt his art form. I remember Django Bates once saying to me that every gig necessarily has to be a special occasion, a genuine event, or what’s the point…and there can be few musicians anywhere who embody that philosophy and that spirit in every second on stage as intensely and as joyfully as Emmet Cohen.

The trio last night was with really strong players capable of seizing the night at any moment. Top flight bassist Philip Norris had his big moment at the start of “Close Your Eyes” where he was quoting both “Autumn Leaves” and “Windmills of You Mind”. Try this video. Drummer Kyle Poole has overwhelming force and presence, but also great subtlety of touch. After a massive intensity build on Neal Hefti’s “Li’l Darlin'”, there was a lovely moment when the sticks went under the arm and it was back to the lightest of possible touches on brushes. Special.

I found myself dreaming that Emmet Cohen might do an Ahmad Jamal tribute one day. Having been able to swan into the gig last night, I reckon it will be my turn to queue next time. And for that, I will. Definitely.


Without a Song (Cedar Walton)

Spillin’ The Tea (Emmet Cohen)

I’ll Keep Loving You (Bud Powell)


Li’l Darlin’ (Neal Hefti)

Close Your Eyes (Bernice Petkere)



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