The American Pianists Association has given its 2019 Cole Porter Fellowship to Emmet Cohen, a three-time finalist for the coveted award who has performed with some of the most accomplished musicians in jazz.
The fellowship comes with a $50,000 prize, recording contract with Mack Avenue Recording Group, and two years of professional services. Cohen, 28, was one of five finalists; the other four were Kenny Banks, Jr., Keelan Dimick, Dave Meder, and Billy Test.
The announcement came on April 6 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, after the finalists had given a handful of capstone performances. Cohen and the others had each played two 15-minute sets in the same city’s Jazz Kitchen nightclub on April 5. For the competition’s final day at the Hilbert Circle, the pianists played in duet with singer Kurt Elling, followed by performances in which they were accompanied by the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra.
Those performances ended a process that lasted a little over a year and required finalists to participate in a high-school outreach program. All five had to perform at jazz clubs throughout Indianapolis in the week leading up to Saturday’s concert as well.
“The buildup to this process has been 14 months long and it is just surreal,” Cohen said. “I put love and passion into every note and part of this competition. Whether it was judged, non-judged or through community outreach, I put everything I had into this experience.”
Cohen joins past winners Sullivan Fortner, Aaron Diehl, Dan Tepfer, Aaron Parks, and Adam Birnbaum, among others.
The American Pianists Association awards the Cole Porter Fellowship every two years, alternating between jazz and classical pianists. Cohen was a finalist in 2015, but Fortner earned the award that year.
Association officials said Cohen’s win was well deserved.
“He came beautifully prepared, focused and with imagination. Emmet is a brilliant pianist and he will be a wonderful ambassador for the American Pianists Association,” said APA president/CEO and artist director Dr. Joel Harrison.
For a brief biography of Cohen, click here.
JazzTimes reviewed Cohen’s album with legendary bassist Ron Carter in 2018.