Junior Cook was a hard bop tenor saxophone player.
Cook was born in Pensacola, Florida. After playing with Dizzy Gillespie in 1958, Cook gained some fame for his longtime membership in the Horace Silver Quintet (1958- 1964); when he and Blue Mitchell left the popular band, Cook played in Mitchell's quintet (1964-1969). Later associations included Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, George Coleman, Louis Hayes (1975-1976), Bill Hardman (1979-1989), and the McCoy Tyner big band. In addition to many appearances as a sideman, Junior Cook recorded as a leader for Jazzland (1961), Catalyst (1977), Muse, and SteepleChase.
Despite the fact that he gained some fame between bop fans during the last years of his life, Junior Cook died alone in his apartment in New York City, according to the testimony of the Sun Ra trumpeter Mra Oma.
From the liner notes, Junior's Cookin'
It has become common practice for a sideman to record as a leader after having been with a group for a short time. There have been cases where a sideman did more albums than his regular group leader in the course of a year. Junior Cook's pattern has been the complete opposite of this. Although he has been the featured tenorman with the Horace Silver Quintet since 1958, has recorded at length with him on four occasions, and has done a couple of sideman albums with Kenny Burrell, Cook had never made a date of his own until 1961.
Junior is from Pensacola, Florida, where he was born in July of 1934. His is a musical family, with both his father and older brother playing trumpet. He started on alto saxophone in high school, switching to tenor later on. Another Pensacola native, Gigi Gryce, gave him encouragement early in his career.
It was while he was working in a rock 'n' roll show at the Howard Theater in Washington that he first met Horace Silver. Silver was working in Baltimore and on his off-night had come over to Washington to hear Lou Donaldson who was playing in a nightclub there. Junior and Horace sat in with Lou and Cook's playing was a happy surprise to the pianist. When Clifford Jordan had to take a short leave of absence from the Silver group, Cook filled in for a week. Then from June to December 1957, he worked with the combo of bassist Gloria Bell. Two months in 1958 were spent with Dizzy Gillespie and in May of that year, Junior joined his present leader.