The Emmet Cohen Trio returned to State College at Thursday in Schwab Auditorium for dedicated jazz fans and to expose students to a new music genre. The concert was the first show of the Center for Performing Arts season.
Students like Matt Donato and John Keenan were looking forward to learning about jazz during the show.
“The only jazz I know is what my dad has played for me, which was from the sixties and seventies, so I’m interested to see what modern jazz is like,” Donato (junior-veterinary and biomedical sciences) said.
Donato and Keenan (junior-advertising) were both attending the show for a class requirement, but were excited to enjoy the music.
The Emmet Cohen Trio consisted of Cohen on piano, Russell Hall on the bass, and Kyle Poole on the drums. The trio previously performed in State College in September 2019.
“I’ve been here a few times now, and it’s very warm and community-based,” Cohen, the 2019 winner of the highest award from the American Pianists Association, said.
Cohen praised his fellow band members as he introduced them. He said Hall had practically invented new ways to play the bass, and recollected Poole’s beginnings of carrying his drums through New York City in garbage bags.
Saxophonist and jazz legend Houston Person later joined the trio. Cohen said he hoped adding Person, 84, to the show would portray his opinion of the importance of learning from more experienced musicians.
“[Person] knows every song imaginable, from all the showtunes, to all the jazz tunes, to all the soul, and to all the pop songs of every decade,” Cohen said.
Though the night was focused on the music, Person took brief breaks in between pieces to make comedic remarks about himself.
“I know you’ll talk, ‘yeah we went to see him and he didn’t even announce the songs,” Person said as he took a moment to remember which songs he had already performed.
The audience and the band remained enthusiastic throughout the night regardless of the kind of song. The band played different pieces, from slower, more soulful tunes to energetic songs.
“If you can’t tell, we really enjoy what we do up here,” Cohen said after a song where the band members clapped, danced, and smiled during each other’s solos.
Cohen said he was looking forward to performing in a college town to help students learn about the music he is so passionate about. He also said jazz is essential to American culture and the history of the country, and he would like students to see that.
“I love playing for younger audience,” Cohen said. “I feel like a lot of the time people who have jobs and are a little bit older are the ones that can afford to go out and see classical music or jazz. This is about the most American music you can get. This is America’s contribution to worldwide culture.”
The audience gave Person and many of the solos an extended round of applause. Some people tapped their feet, and others were vocal about their reaction to the show through their cheers.
“It’s supposed to be fun,” Cohen said, summarizing how he felt about the night’s show. “It’s supposed to make you laugh, and to make you feel something.”