Art Of A Beautiful Ballad: Emmet Cohen Plays “Where Is Love?”

Amazing jazz pianist Emmet Cohen knows how to make the piano sing during  the tune “Where Is Love?” from Oliver! Let’s compare his 6 live performances of this beautiful ballad, to see what makes his takes so lovely.

Here’s my simpler chart of “Where Is Love” with lyrics (this may be important to help a ballad’s interpretation) in Emmet’s chosen key of A Major:   

Compare the above “fewer frills” lead sheet with the more complex transcription below showing some of Emmet Cohen’s reharmonization ideas. Note the additional chord changes with a more complex harmonic structure, plus a few melodic fills and variations:

Noted by Emmet Cohen: During the ascending passage (last line of the above chart), the D#m7(b5) EC wrote as an Eb7(#9) – which essentially uses similar notes, but my chord position is voiced for a smaller hand size. EC drops the last two bars of the form to go directly into improvising over the tune, while the suggested turn around is DD’s optional idea in case adding these chords help to differentiate where the solo section begins.

Now watch my YouTube tutorial demonstrating some of Emmet Cohen’s beautiful ballad techniques:

UPDATE: 10/11/23 Find free downloadable music I created to a basic “Where Is Love?” chart in A major with lyrics, plus a couple charts using Emmet Cohen’s extra chords/arrangement for pianists, bassists & drummers to follow, and several endings EC used during various performances of this beautiful tune. (Look under the “Downloads” section on this website.)

Below is a piano video I made playing my transcription – with just a few personalizations – of his Stockholm Cadenza. Not sharing a chart on this one, but hope you can feel the inspiration:

One thing I’d like to address are some of the cues  musicians may use with their insightful band partners: These could be subtle looks such as a glance up or down, a nod, or some kind of more obvious visual cue I call “the hairy eyeball” to indicate an alternate set of chords, a tempo change or pause. A musical note or series of notes may also be employed to bring the band back in together during a certain point in the tune. Check out this clip during Emmet’s improvised solo from the Poland concert with bassist Philip Norris and drummer Kyle Poole:

What do you think of the dreamy puppy dog eyes, the turning to face the camera swag, leading into a ‘How did we end up HERE!!?‘ shrug and laugh, followed by a look that seems to say, “Oh, guess I’ll play a chromatic run to pull us all together, then we’ll do a contrary motion idea which cues the band back into the form”?

Below is a list of 6 performances, earlist to most recent, with a few added details. Times are approximate:

  1. Budapest Jazz Club Streamed Jan. 24 recorded Jan 12 2022 w/Yasushi Nakamura & Kyle Poole

40:16 (Danny Boy in D) video has skips

42:27 – 45:06 Melody

45:06 – 46:35 Solo (gets bluesy & swings a bit)

46:35 – back in w/Melody rolls video cuts to cadenza 47:11 – (lots of modulating ii-V7s sequences)

48:03 Melody back in until ending 49:03 Big finish 49:30

  1. France July 18 2022 w/Philip Norris & Kyle Poole

43:40 – 44:10 Intro

44:10 Melody (more decorated gets a little bluesy on some embellishments)

47:08 – 47:54 Solos on A to Asus for several measures, then transitions Into key of G, setting up intro for “Darn That Dream” when Fabien Mary trumpet enters) This version has the most embellished playing of the melody

  1. Poland August 29 2022 Festival At The Old Town: w/Phillip Norris & Kyle Poole

27:17 Intro: “It Never Entered My Mind” & modulates to key of A

28:59 – 29:14 This version has a long Intro

29:14 – 31:31 Melody & band enters gets a bit bluesy, broken octaves, nice fills

31:31 Solo 32:16 The LOOKS, some block chords, chromatic line & contrary motion cue

33:02 – 33:44 Back in with Melody, going into “Fading Star” cadenza quote, runs up piano

34:23 – 34:58 BIG finish with bold Good King Wenceslas

  1. Detroit Jazz Festival (Streamed Jan. 23, 2023 recorded Sept 5 2022) w/Yasushi Nakamura & Kyle Poole

Intro: 38:50

Melody: 39:28 – 41:55 (shorter form?)

Solo swinging more with grace notes 41:55 – 43:30 contrary motion cue

43:30 back into Melody

Cadenza 44:15 – 44:56 Erroll Garner rolls, grace notes. Shorter cadenza

44:56 – 45:54 Back in Melody rubato

45:54 – 46:15 BIG EXTENDED TREMELO ENDING! Last chord Kyle Poole drum drama!

BOLDEST ENDING Outdoor concert a bit faster, sassy, most bluesy & Garneresque because piano is going out of tune in the sun?

  1. Half Moon Bay streamed Oct. 10 2022 (played Sept. 22) SECOND SET w/Philip Norris (bass) & John Lumpkin II (drums)

“Fading Star” intro) 40:47 -41:02

Where Is Love slow & less “bluesy” Mood & tempo is slow and sweet

41:02 – 44:30 Melody

44:30 – 47:00 Solo nice building sequences & 46:48 “psychic moments” with bassist Philip Norris? 47:00 Emmet watching bassist very carefully… They are so in sync it’s amazing.

Back into melody rubato until cadenza 48:08-48:19ish until 49:34 E7 run

49:34 – 50:00 Another “Good King Wenceslas” ending

  1. Stockholm Sweden Konserthuset April 5th 2023 w/Phillip Norris & Kyle Poole Slowest & most tenderly played YouTube:

Intro: 00: – 0:29

Melody 0:29 – 4:08

Solo: 4:11 – 7:10 Contrary motion cue

Cadenza Extraordinaire: 7:10 – 9:25 EC Quotes “Be My Love”

Back in with rubato Melody: 9:27 – 10:24

Ending 10:24 – 10:56

Printable charts for Debbie Denke Music’s transcriptions  “Where Is Love?” plus several Emmet Cohen selected endings are available under Downloads column on this website. Enjoy!








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