By Don Heckman
“I just do it.” That was the brief comment I received from young pianist/composer Emily Bear when I spoke to her after her Wednesday night performance at the Musicians’ Institute.
Four little words. In response to my query about her orchestral composition “Santa Fe.” How, I wondered, had she developed the skills to write so authoritatively for a full symphonic orchestra.
And she replied, “I just do it.”
Which is probably the response that this remarkable eleven year old prodigy would have to all the other impressive accomplishments she has had with her music.
In case you haven’t been watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show lately, or haven’t stumbled upon her numerous film clips on YouTube, you may not be too sure about who Emily Bear is. Suffice to say that she’s been receiving a lot of attention, with good reason.
Displaying musical talent on the piano at the age of two, she began to compose a year later. At six, she performed at the White House, and she guested on the DeGeneres Show six times. As she got older, her skills reached from pop and jazz and rock to classical music, often via performances with a full orchestra, performing in venues in the U.S. and Europe.
Quincy Jones was so impressed when he heard Emily in action that he immediately made a deal to take over management of her career.
“She is the complete 360-degree package,” says Quincy, “and there are no limits to the musical heights that she can reach.”
All of which was amply clear in her Jazz Bakery performance. In a single, hour and half set, she offered a sequence of all original works, performing with bassist Peter Slavov, drummer Kevin Kanner and, on a few works, cellist Zuill Bailey.
The music covered a gamut of styles: lyrical, adagio-like classical melodies; briskly swinging bebop lines; an atmospheric flamenco-styled piece; some rhythmically energizing salsa; a theme that could easily have been the principal melody in an Italian film; and much more.
All of it was delivered in Emily’s warm engaging style, clearly enraptured within the music, communicating her creative intensity to the other players with captivating smiles and gestures.
Watching and listening to the utter musical authenticity of her playing, I couldn’t help but recall another illuminating remark from Emily, one that perfectly illustrates the creative reality of this impressive young artist: “I have so much music in my heart,” she says, “that it just falls out.”
Emily’s latest recording, Diversity(Concord/Qwest Records), was produced by Quincy Jones. Her seventh album, it includes much of the material presented at the Jazz Bakery performance. It’s the perfect introduction to the work of a very gifted, very young woman with – as Quincy has pointed out – “no limits to the heights she can reach.”
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Photos by Faith Frenz.