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Emmet Cohen Trio At Gates Concert Hall

Emmet Cohen Trio At Gates Concert Hall

Courtesy Steven Roby

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With AI, people are worried about losing their jobs, and every day, something happens in the world; man, we need jazz more than ever.
—Emmet Cohen
Emmet Cohen Trio
June Swaner Gates Concert Hall
Denver, CO
February 3, 2024

Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night will keep Emmet Cohen fans from coming out to see him and his trio perform in concert. That was the case last Saturday night at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Bundled up to brave the impact of a recent snowstorm, concertgoers showed up well before the doors opened. Swaddled in puffy jackets, they knocked the snow off their boots as they entered the building, while valiant senior citizens, some with hiking sticks, were eager to be seated. It was Cohen's debut appearance at the venue, and the show was sold out.

Cohen's trio featured bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Kyle Poole. Poole's dynamic drumming and Rogers' resonant bass provided a solid foundation, allowing Cohen to weave intricate narratives with his piano improvisations. The chemistry between these two musicians left the audience in awe.

Cohen noted that Rogers has performed with jazz's most renowned artists, including Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, and Joshua Redman. "He gets all the best gigs," said Cohen, "and there's a reason for that."

About 45 minutes into the show, Poole broke his snare drum's head after going full beast mode on his kit. While he grabbed a spare, Cohen took the opportunity to praise the young drummer's skills and talk about playing with him for ten years.

"We met at Small's jazz club in New York, and during the pandemic, we did a weekly live stream from my New York apartment called 'Live From Emmet's Place,'" recalled Cohen. Cohen then segued into "Spillin' the Tea," an upbeat original the pianist wrote during the 2020 lockdown.

"We play to a lot of people in their eighties and nineties, and they still feel the power of music," Cohen said. "Every time we perform, we try to find joy and newness in it, and that's what music teaches us."

The setlist also featured a beautiful be-bop ballad called "I'll Keep Loving You" by Bud Powell and "Cherokee," a jazz standard written by the British composer and band leader Ray Noble. In Neal Hefti's "Li'l Darlin,'" Poole switched from sticks to brushes —he's a master at both!

Perhaps one of the moving moments in the show was an instrumental Cohen said he learned in Hebrew school, a healing prayer infused with inspiration from John Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things."

Cohen's engagement with the audience further enriched the concert experience. Toward the end of his set, Cohen told the crowd, "It's so hard these days to be in the moment because we're inundated with news and vibrations that aren't always positive ones. With AI, people are worried about losing their jobs, and every day, something happens in the world; man, we need jazz more than ever. This music is the best tool we have to fight against evil in the world, and that's why we've dedicated our lives to it."

For their encore, the trio returned with "Carolina Shout," a piano rag from the 1920s written by pianist and composer James P. Johnson.

Before their final bows, Cohen invited everyone to the lobby, where he, Rogers, and Poole would sign CDs and answer questions.

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