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Take Five With Dr. Jack Cooper

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Meet Dr. Jack Cooper:
Jack Cooper, has a wide range of experience as a performer, composer, and educator. His most recent CD recording of his compositions/arrangements, Mists: The Music of Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra (Planet Arts Records, 2014) was released in August to critical acclaim in the Chicago Tribune and All About Jazz.

His compositions and arrangements have been performed and/or recorded by the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Junction Symphony, the Summit Jazz Orchestra (Germany), the U.S. Army "Jazz Ambassadors," the U.S. Navy "Commodores," the Rob Parton Jazz Orchestra, the Cavani String Quartet, the Ceruti String Quartet, Alma Latina, DEKA Jazz and the Brass 5.

Dr. Cooper's television music composition credits include "the Jenny Jones Show," "American Restoration," Hollywood Xtra, SOCAN, and news broadcasts in the Washington, D.C. area. His critically acclaimed recording of his chamber music compositions is with Centaur Records, The Chamber Wind Music of Jack Cooper (Centaur 3027, 2010). Jack Cooper is musical director and founder of the Jazz Orchestra of the Delta. Their CD, Big Band Reflections of Cole Porter was released in June 2003 on the Summit Record Label.

Instrument(s):
Saxophones, clarinets, flutes, composition and arranging

Teachers and/or influences?
I first studied composition and arranging in Los Angeles with Tom Ranier. He was quite inspirational to have as a first teacher. I went to Cal State Los Angeles after that and was with Bob Curnow who had been a staff arranger and producer with the Stan Kenton Orchestra; very enlightening since my favorite writers at the time had been with the Kenton band. I also studied at that school with David Caffey, William Hill and Byoung Young Kim. During that time I was very fortunate to get some lessons with Gerald Wilson who also taught at CSULA and then during a summer with David Baker and Billy Taylor. I later studied with Manny Albam, Richard Lawn and Karl Korte.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
When I heard Artie Shaw playing the clarinet and Charlie Parker playing the alto sax on my parents 78 records (wow, that is old school!). I had been around my mom playing the organ and piano. She accompanied some world-class performers. I guess I did not really connect with music fully until after I started playing the clarinet when I was eleven. At that point when I heard Shaw and Parker playing jazz it motivated me a great deal more to really play the instruments.

Your sound and approach to music:
I have a hard time saying what my sound might be; it is such a cross-section of so many things. I mentioned Charlie Parker and Artie Shaw but I love Afro-Latin, classical, rock, and many other things that catch my ear. I draw from a number of sources; you hear this in my latest release with Planet Arts Records.

Your teaching approach:
Have the fundamentals down first. You can have the greatest and most inspired ideas but if you do not have the technique and skills to utilize and perform those ideas it is nothing.

Your dream band:
I basically had that band in the Planet Arts release but if I was to give a set of personnel then I would say the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. They have the sound I want; they have the soloists.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
The best experience I had was probably doing a T.V. show for MSNBC 9 years ago with full orchestra; I was in the woodwind section. The musical director was Harold Wheeler (MD for Dancing with the Stars) and the band was a very high level.

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