Classic “stride” piano typically featured a rocking left-hand bounce, and energetic right-hand cross rhythms, in bright uptempo showpieces, for choice. Developing out of ragtime, it flourished in Harlem with founding masters such as James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith and Fats Waller. With prodigious skill, Art Tatum added advanced harmonic structures and dazzling ornamental runs in masterpieces such as Tiger Rag and Tea For Two.
Emmet Cohen’s album title seems to promise a fresh, personal development and reinterpretation of stride. This doesn’t seem to me to happen, or even perhaps to be necessary, as Emmet is a talented and creative jazz stylist in his own right.
Symphonic Raps, recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1928, featured some fine Earl Hines piano in an orchestral setting but seems a rather unexpected choice to select in this context. However, Cohen romps through some driving classic stride with confident brio in his trio arrangement. Thereafter he seems to lose interest in stride as a style concept for much of the album.
His five originals (which feature two guest horns who play in cool, latter-day style) are interesting and well performed, and his ballad playing in these, and in two fine standards, sounds sure and accomplished. I can’t however hear much relating to stride style, past, present or future, after the opener, except for some interesting arrangements in the title track, Future Stride, and in Dardanella, which tackle a blending of old with new, also in the brief but striking Pitter Panther Patter which reprises Ellington’s 1940 duet with bassist Jimmy Blanton.
The title of this album may not mean much, but the performance of this fine jazz trio is certainly well worth hearing.
(1) Symphonie Raps; (2) Reflections At Dusk; Toast To Lo; (1) Future Stride; Second Time Around; Dardanella; (2) You Already Know; (1) My Heart Stood Still; (3) Pitter Panther Patter; (4) Little Angel (47.19)
(1) Cohen (p); Russell Hall (b); Kyle Poole (d); New York, 21/22 January 2020. (2) as (1). Add Marquis Hill (t) and Melissa Aldana (ts). (3) as (1). Omit Poole. (4) as (2). Omit Aldana.
Mack Avenue 1181