Most 15-year-olds are running around at the mall, wasting precious time. If they play a musical instrument, it’s usually in high school band, because all their friends are playing clarinet or trumpet, and it sure beats taking art, standup, or heaven forbid, guitar 101.
Emily Bear isn’t like most 15-year-olds. She’s a seriously talented musician who stands out from a crowd the second she runs her fingers over the keys.
A highly evolved, deeply musical prodigy, Bear has a new album coming out Jan. 27 on Edston Records called Into The Blue, dedicated to mentor Quincy Jones, who first discovered her when she was seven. What’s even more amazing is that this isn’t even her first jazz album. Diversity is. The Sept. 7, 2013 debut was produced by Jones, and quickly topped the charts.
But jazz, ah jazz is her forte.
“What I love so much about jazz is that you have a lot more freedom than in classical music. Jazz has a groove that doesn't show up in any other kind of music and I enjoy using all my musical influences to create a unique sound, familiar yet new,” Bear said in a recent DL Media press release.
For Into The Blue, Bear’s with a killer bassist and drummer: Bulgarian-born Peter Slavov (Joe Lovano’s Us Five) and Toronto native Mark McLean (George Michael, Billy Joel). They can clearly hang with her through some thick, dense movements and style variations.
“They’re amazing musicians and they can jump back and forth between a lot of the styles that I write. On top of that, they’re really great guys,” she said in the press release.
The first two tracks in advance of the release bear little resemblance to any teen, even a gifted one. A piano player and composer, Bear shows the sophistication of a studied, established veteran with a flair for musical drama in her confident, unctuous chord strides, classically executed takes on tone, structure, and phrasing that most experienced adults can’t even maneuver.
“Old Office” and “Je Ne Sais Pas” vaguely reference the jazz odes of old without leaving the modern behind. Every note is clean, crisp, smart, and almost flippantly tossed, as if to say, “Yeah, I know it, and watch this next!”
Bear almost pounds those notes for effect in “Old Office,” which won her a “Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award” from the ASCAP Foundation in 2016. The frenetic control of the performance is possessed of an urgency and whirlwind energy that cannot be contained yet must be conveyed in a passing fashion, for the ultimate statement. Her runs are as quick as a heart beat pounding the pavement of a big city, searching windows for that big break.
Where “Old Office” is a swanky, luxe affair, “Je Ne Sais Pas” cleverly lets slip with other stylistic touches from the curvy classically enhanced jazz of her piano opening into the syncopated percussive luster of the bass and drums.
“Je Ne Sais Pas” features Bear as a jazz-blues contortionist, effortlessly vamping between the two styles without even trying. The bass and percussion flawlessly execute the Latin fringe to lend a certain exotic air.
Into The Blue positions Bear as a star on five original compositions and a complex unraveling of styles and references (John Coltrane!) in the classic cover of “My Favorite Things.”
Into The Blue is now available for pre-orders.