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Emmet Cohen Six Chorus Solo (:58-4:47)


Chorus #1 (:58) Bringing it down

Emmet holds back to bring the rhythm section down at the beginning of his solo. He simply comps without playing a melody. By doing this, he sends the message to the rhythm section that he will be playing a long solo and ‘building it from the ground-up’.


His soloing in chorus #1 has repetition in his phrasing.


He briefly quotes the melody.


Chorus #2 (1:37) The slow walk forward

Emmet is keeping with the bluesy rendition that he started the song with.

He is playing a lot near the top of the piano.


His comping is quirky, staccato, and stands out, from past lighter accompaniment.


He is using a lot of jazz piano ornamentation in his solo, playing improvised melodies in octaves, using static notes to stay in the bluesy theme, and grace notes now and then.


Even though Emmet is playing trio music, he is playing a lot of rooted voicings in this chorus. I take this as a subtextual cue to the bass and drums that he wants to play a section of solo piano. I write this because, (1) In my familiarity with Emmet, he likes to play solo stride piano in his solos on bluesier tunes, (2) The key of F is easier to play fast stride piano, (3) He values diverse performances where strong performers can play without the assistance of the rhythm section.


Chorus #3 (2:16) Building and foreshadowing

Emmet added a few more modern devices in this chorus. One that stood out was the two-hand, contrary motion of scales. Very difficult to execute, but he does it well. 


In the last 8 bars, he was more overt by actually playing stride over the rhythm section. He really is foreshadowing that he intends to go solo.


Chorus #4 (2:55) Goodbye bass and drums!

The bass immediately heard that Emmet wanted to go solo. It took the drums an extra 8 measures to stop playing. He heard it before bar 8, but wanted to exit at a new form section.


Emmet has a very good stride style. He has good time, and knows many of the ‘licks’ that authenticate him as a 1920’s-30’s pianist. He has obviously studied this music.


A part of this early stride style is a simplified harmony. Emmet eliminated a lot of the ii chords of established ii-V-Is, and simplifies them to V chords.

Another foreshadow at the end of this chorus is going to syncopated Boogie-Woogie syncopated octave playing in the left hand. He comes back to this a lot in the next chorus.


Chorus #5 (3:31) Still playing solo

Emmet is trading sections with himself, playing either left hand stride patterns or syncopated Boogie-Woogie octaves.


On the 2nd A section, he modulated up a half step to Gb. This would be hard to convey to the rhythm section playing. He works himself back to F before the bridge.


His very technical straight-feel left/right hand motif reminded me of Liszt's 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody.


At the end of the chorus, he built up the intensity to huge levels which probably sent a message to rhythm section to respond and contribute more overtly. Their experience also probably informed them on reading Emmet and the length of unaccompanied solos he likes to take.


Chorus #6 (4:07) Channeling O.P.

Emmet is bringing the solo together with the addition of the rhythm section, by not letting up off the gas, playing shout figures, very similar to Oscar Peterson in his trio playing.


He is organically trading with the drums.


Towards the last half, he is intentionally bringing the intensity down, backing off in volume, decreasing speed and number of notes played, and quoting the melody.


He had one more quote in him, playing a couple bars from ,”Lester Leaps In”.

The self-decreasing intensity of his solo had the equivalent of gentle hand off of the baton to the next soloist, Cyrille.


TIP: When your solo begins, don’t jump in right away. Like Emmet, deflate the rhythm section’s intensity so you can build your solo. Do so in a measured, organic way with the cooperation of the rhythm section.


TIP: Playing without the rhythm section can be a fun activity but has pitfalls if not comfortable in pitch and rhythm. Practice your ‘time’ and try to sing with 1-bar and 2-bar breaks before having the rhythm section lay-out for larger periods of time. Ground your ‘rhythm section-less’ solo with time-keeping phrases that lay-out your feel. Start simple and swinging!


TIP: If you want to add something out of the ordinary into your solo, send the rhythm section the message by singing it towards the end of the form. It’s a subtle way of signaling to the rhythm section that you want to return to it in the following form. Examples you can signal near the end of the form: singing lyrics if you want to go back to the head, scatting at the end of the head if you want to improvise the first solo, and premiere a rhythmic or melodic motif that you intend to spend some time on in the next chorus.


TIP: Quoting the melody with lyrics towards the end of your improvised solo is a good musical way to communicate that you may be finishing up your solo.