UPDATE: Friday’s performance by the Emmet Cohen Trio will now feature special guest vocalist Ekep Nkwelle in place of Lucy Yeghiayaryan, who is unable to perform due to illness. In addition, the trio members include drummer Joe Saylor in place of Joe Farnsworth.
Get ready for a riveting evening of musical brilliance with the multifaceted American jazz pianist and composer, Emmet Cohen, who has been described by All About Jazz as: “Thirty years old and one of the finest piano players to emerge in decades …” With his nimble touch on the keys, and his incredibly talented trio alongside him, Cohen effortlessly weaves together intricate melodies and harmonies, taking you on a journey through the rich tapestry of jazz. Live From Emmet’s Place, a weekly livestream that he created during the pandemic, has received millions of views worldwide.
Emmet Cohen, piano
Ekep Nkwelle, vocals
Philip Norris, bass
Joe Saylor, drums
Multifaceted American jazz pianist and composer Emmet Cohen is one of his generation’s pivotal figures in music and the related arts. Leader of the Emmet Cohen Trio and creator of the Masters Legacy Series, he is an internationally acclaimed jazz artist, a dedicated educator, the winner of the 2019 American Pianists Awards, and a finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition. Cohen headlines regularly at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Village Vanguard, and Birdland, and has appeared at the Newport, Monterey, and North Sea jazz festivals. His artistry has taken him to venues and festivals in over 30 countries. Cohen’s entrepreneurial energies led to his developing Live From Emmet’s Place, a live-streamed “Harlem rent party” that unites a worldwide audience via tens of millions of internet views. Cohen has released over 10 albums as leader and has performed or recorded with Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Cobb, George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, Tootie Heath, Houston Person, Christian McBride, and Kurt Elling. To learn more about him, please visit emmetcohen.com.
The meaning of Ekep Nkwelle’s name (pronounced [Eh-kep In-kweh-leh]) perfectly describes her: a gift. Her rich, soulful voice soars delivering timeless messages to audiences with power and confidence.
To develop and master her talent, the Washington, DC-born Cameroonian-American vocalist has trained at world-renowned institutes, such as Duke Ellington High School of the Arts, Howard University (BA), and The Juilliard School (MM).
At Howard, she trained with master jazz pianist, Cyrus Chestnut. With Chestnut’s guidance, Ekep tapped into the blues as an essential language for story-telling. The two would go on to perform together at Dizzy’s Jazz Club in New York and record a duet of the late DC saxophonist, Buck Hill’s “The Sad Ones” (lyrics written by Nkwelle to Buck Hill’s tenor saxophone solo).
Lauded for her roles in Howard University’s premier vocal jazz ensemble, Afro Blue, where she was the lead soloist for four years, and the trio group The Soul Sistas, Nkwelle’s collaborations continued after moving from the nation’s capital to “The Big Apple.”
She has performed with venerable artists, such as world-renowned classical pianist, Lang Lang at Radio City Music Hall and The Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra as well as jazz masters Russell Malone and Peter Washington at The Library of Congress. She also plays and travels extensively with powerhouse jazz bassist and rising star, Endea Owens. Ekep has graced the stages of The Kennedy Center, Blues Alley, Dizzy’s Jazz Club, The Carr Center, and The Strathmore, among others. She has appeared at multiple jazz festivals and events, including the Newport Jazz Festival, Montclair Jazz Festival, Hudson Jazz Festival, Jazz on the Narrows (opening for Cecile McLorin Salvant), and DC Jazz Fest (opening for Regina Carter).
Some achievements include being one of 15 students inducted into the highly selective 2023 Juilliard Career Advancement Fellowship bestowed upon her through nomination by jazz master trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis and Juilliard Jazz assistant director, Dr. Aaron Flagg. In 2022, she performed on NPR’s Music’s Tiny Desk concert series, singing her arrangement of Geri Allen’s “Timeless Portraits & Dreams.” This same year, Nkwelle placed First Runner-Up in The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Voice Competition, ahead of almost 300 contestants representing 27 countries. She has also secured a coveted spot in triple Grammy and Tony award-winner, Dee Dee Bridgewater’s The Woodshed Network artist residency program for women in Jazz.
A unique vessel harnessing a great gift, Nkwelle has become one of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s latest rising stars. An in-demand artist, Ekep is rapidly being recognized as part of the promising “future of jazz.” Through her artistry, Nkwelle shares her passion for Black music, history, and culture with listeners worldwide.