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The Cookers and the Vijay Iyer Trio, at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival 2010

Ernest Barteldes By

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Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
Tompkins Square Park
New York, NY
August 29, 2010

After a blistering blues-based set by New York-based singer Catherine Russell, the 7-piece hard-bop ensemble The Cookers (Billy Harper: tenor sax; Eddie Henderson and David Weiss: trumpets; Craig Handy: alto sax and flute; George Cables: piano; Cecil McBee: bass and Billy Hart: Drums) took to the stage with a hard-driving number that shifted time signatures, going from a blues-inflected groove to a more syncopated tempo and back again. The tune featured great solos from Harper, Weiss and Cables, who set the tone for the entire performance.

They immediately followed that with McBee's "Peacemaker," a tune that was clearly written with the string bass in mind, since the instrument was clearly the arrangement's backbone. McBee's bass line was almost like a solo, and as a consequence the drums had to supply a stronger, more percussive accompaniment. Next was Hart's "Croquet Ballet," a more up-tempo number with a blues-inflected feel that gave plenty of space for the horns to improvise and be playful throughout.

The set closed with a rendition of Freddie Hubbard's "The Core," which opened with a bass solo that followed a flurry of individual moments from all participants. Hart played an extended solo based around the toms, which was greatly received from the audience.

After a short break, the Vijay Iyer trio (Iyer: piano; Stephan Crump: bass; Chris Persad Group, The Dautaj, Marcus Gilmore , Coquito, Fri: drums) came on with a very up-tempo, dynamic number that was contemporary but had a few pop music references. Crump and Gilmore formed a great rhythm section, giving Iyer plenty of space to improvise without creating empty spaces in the music.

Up next was a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Big Brother," which he jokingly dedicated to two Conservative media personalities who had conducted a rally in Washington, DC that weekend (he got a mix of boos and applause for that quip), and followed that with a tribute to the late Michael Jackson with a touching rendition of his 1985 hit "Human Nature," adding a few arpeggios to the original melody without altering the tune's flow much.

The trio closed the set with a much more complex tune that began with Iyer's unaccompanied solo. Crump and Gilmore joined him after a few measures, and the bassist seemed to take the lead as the Iyer played subtle arpeggios in between. The tune also featured the only solo from Gilmore, who added accents as his band mates played short interludes linking beats.

Also on the bill for the two-day festival were Jimmy Scott (who closed the festival), Jason Moran, JD Allen and Revive Da Live.

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