A virtuosic and multi-faceted pianist, Emmet Cohen is known for his deep grasp of jazz traditions, from stride and bop to Latin and modal styles. A gifted improviser since his teens, Cohen first garnered attention playing around New York in the 2010s and has worked with a bevy of luminaries including Christian McBride, Herlin Riley, Ali Jackson, and Brian Lynch. He gained yet wider attention in 2020 with his viral “Live at Emmet’s Place” online series. Live-streamed from his New York apartment, the shows found Cohen leading his trio with special guests; an exuberant, improvisational vibe he brought to his 2021 Mack Avenue debut, Future Stride, and 2022 follow-up, Uptown in Orbit.
Born in 1990, Cohen spent his early years in Florida where he started playing piano at age three in a Suzuki program. Around age 11, he moved with his family to Montclair, New Jersey, where he continued to develop his skills, taking private lessons and participating in the local Jazz Connections kids workshops (later known as Jazz House Kids). It was through his involvement in Jazz Connections that he received early guidance and experience working with artists like Radam Schwartz, Dave Stryker, and Michelle Rosewoman. While in high school, he was tutored in classical piano at the Manhattan School of Music’s Pre-College Division and participated in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Young Arts Foundation. He also began gigging at various clubs and was mentored by esteemed drummers Cecil Brooks III and Billy Hart. After high school, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, where he studied with noted pianist and educator Shelly Berg. He also finished his master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. Along the way he picked up accolades, including placing first in both the 2011 Phillips Piano Competition at the University of West Florida and the 2014 American Jazz Pianists competition. He was also a finalist in the American Pianists Association’s Cole Porter Fellowship in 2011 and 2014 and a finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.
Along with leading his own groups, Cohen has worked with numerous veteran and contemporary performers, including Kurt Elling and Jimmy Heath, and as the musical director for both Lea DeLaria and Veronica Swift. He is a member of bassist Christian McBride's Tip City Trio and has played regularly with the Herlin Riley Quartet and the Ali Jackson Trio. He has also held the chair as Hammond B-3 organist in residence at Harlem’s SMOKE jazz club. In 2011, he released his debut independent album, In the Element, with bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Rodney Green. He also collaborated with trumpeter Brian Lynch on their 2014 album Questioned Answer. Two years later, he launched his Master Legacy Series of sessions, recording with such legendary jazz artists as Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, Albert "Tootie" Heath, George Coleman, and Houston Person.
Beginning in March 2020, largely in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Cohen began live-streaming concerts from his New York apartment as “Live from Emmet’s Place” on social media. The performances, which featured his trio and a rotating bevy of guest soloists, went viral, racking up thousands views. Still riding the buzz over his online shows, the pianist released his debut album for the Mack Avenue label, Future Stride. It featured his trio with bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole, and guest appearances by trumpeter Marquis Hill and saxophonist Melissa Aldana. Cohen’s sophomore Mack Avenue album, Uptown in Orbit, arrived in October 2022 and again found him leading his trio with Pool and Hall. This time, he brought along several of his “Live from Emmet’s Place” regulars, including saxophonist Patrick Bartley and trumpeter Sean Jones. ~ Matt Collar