Emmet Cohen ‘Future Stride’ LP/CD (Mack Avenue) 4/5

‘Future Stride’ is the brand new album from pianist and composer, Emmet Cohen, released through the revered Mack Avenue Records.

It would be hard to imagine an artist of the stature and calibre of Emmet Cohen possibly needing to bring anything else to the table. On paper alone, his is a history bursting with accolades, awards and achievements – a Masters Degree from the Manhattan School of Music, a Bachelors Degree from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, mentorship by classical pianist Shelly Berg, curator of YoungArts programs that include creative writing, theatre, dance, visual arts, cinematography, music and jazz, an in-demand musician accompanying a wide range of artists from heavy-hitters like Christian McBride, Jimmy Cobb and Ron Carter to fellow Mack Avenue artists like vocalist Veronica Swift and saxophonist Troy Roberts. It’s a résumé of excellence and Mack Avenue – despite obviously boasting a roster par excellence in their own right – have a genuine master in their midst.

And then, of course, there’s his position as the centrepiece for his own Emmet Cohen Trio who now see their debut release forever etched within the hallowed walls of Mack Avenue – home, at one time or another, to luminaries including Freda Payne, Kenny Garrett, Stanley Clarke and Tower of Power.

Cohen’s music – while always progressive and forward-thinking – has always paid its respect to the paths that were paved for the contemporary generation. Amongst the earlier list of Cohen’s accomplishments, we neglected to reference his Masters Legacy series which, through recordings and interviews, seeks to showcase the timeless work of Cohen’s heroes. The music on ‘Future Stride’ seeks to continue paying homage while laying the groundwork for Cohen’s own legacy. The project is aided by Cohen’s long-time collaborators – bassist Russell Hall (Joey Alexander, Lauren Desberg) and drummer Kyle Poole (Mark Kavuma, Jon Boutellier) – as well as some additional star power in the form of Chilean saxophonist, composer and bandleader, Melissa Aldana, who guests on three of the album’s tracks and whose past ‘Visions’ album (Motéma, 2019) also scored a glowing review with UK Vibe. Trumpeter Marquis Hill, whose celestial take on love has spawned some wonderfully bold releases in the past couple years, guests on four of the album’s tracks delivering another fantastic contribution.

The music throughout is certainly a testament to the immeasurable talent involved in bringing it all to life: the playful title track, the nostalgia-driven ‘Reflections of Dusk’ and the celebratory ‘Toast to Lo’ are all exquisite; ‘You Already Know’ charges along at a joyful and fervent pace and ‘Little Angel’ serves as the perfect album closer with Hill’s trumpet just the icing on the already sublime cake.

Hopefully ‘Future Stride’ will stand as the first of many Cohen Trio projects through Mack Avenue as the album delivers as a stunning project befitting of the label’s incredible legacy.

Imran Mirza