Emily Bear: Diversity

There’s always a temptation, when listening to a prodigy, to overcompensate in the praise department. In this case that means questioning if Emily Bear’s Diversity would be quite as impressive if the artist were somewhat older than 11. Bear is a gifted (if not quite virtuosic yet) pianist, championed by Quincy Jones, who understands innately the role of her instrument in both solo and group capacities. She can improvise smartly, shift between genres, tempos and dispositions effortlessly, elevate a melody and-perhaps most impressive-compose. She wrote every song on the record, and there’s nothing childlike about Bear’s music: While some of her classically informed ballads teeter on the edge of new age, she never quite falls into that hole; she already knows the difference between jazz and Muzak. With many super-talented children, there’s often a sense that some sort of rote mechanism takes over and guides them, but Diversity feels like the work of an artist of depth and sensitivity. It’ll be exciting to see where age and maturity take her.