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The Cookers at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley

The Cookers at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley

Courtesy Jack Gold-Molina

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The music was flowing with free-form improv right out of the gate, Henderson and Harrison trading burning, melodic solos.
The Cookers
Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
Seattle, Washington
February 21, 2024

Veteran players The Cookers brought their long-established brand of avant-bop jazz to Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle. The personnel included David Weiss and Eddie Henderson playing trumpet, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, tenor saxophonist Craig Handy, pianist George Cables, Cecil McBee playing bass and Billy Hart playing drums.

The set started out with the straight ahead tune "The Mystery of Monifa Brown," written by Cables. The music was flowing with free-form improv right out of the gate, Henderson and Harrison trading burning, melodic solos. Clavé rhythm accented the intensity, with McBee and Cables tight and smooth and Hart riffing and breaking up the time.

In contrast to the first tune, McBee's "Peacemaker" was low-key and fluid, outside yet in, like pools formed by the ocean tide. Henderson played fast runs on trumpet over the moderate pulse, Harrison's alto sax tonal inflections complementing the reflective and changing rhythmic undercurrent. McBee's bass solo was lyrical like birdsong on the shore of a river or words spoken during a conversation between two people.

"Three Fall," written by Weiss, featured Handy's fiery and explosive tenor sax playing, his vocabulary seemingly unending and coming from a very deep place. Weiss soloed on trumpet as though he was communicating from the stratosphere, Cables accompanying McBee articulating time and space with eighth and sixteenth note phrasing in a triplet feel. "Close To You Alone," a ballad written by McBee, featured Harrison's alto complemented by Hart's brush work, reminiscent of '60s creative jazz session musicians like saxophonist Arthur Jones.

The up-tempo arrangement of Freddie Hubbard's "The Core," although recorded by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers when Hubbard was a member, had that colorful tone and loamy feel that Hubbard achieved on his later CTI recordings. In fact, Cables played piano on Hubbard's CTI releases Keep Your Soul Together (1973) and Polar AC (1975). Hart flowed like river rapids with McBee and Cables laying down the swing in solid time. Henderson and Handy traded virtuosic phrases taking the tune into free-fall as Hart surged into a drum solo. Starting out with a Latin jazz rhythm then breaking up the time, Hart's patterns told a story, repeating and transforming like a chameleon changing colors, never staying the same for very long. Cables joined in, piano and drums talking to each other, and then the band came back in with the horn players improvising together, each doing separate runs with bass and piano in the pocket. Weiss introduced everyone on the bandstand and the set ended with an upbeat theme.

The night came to a close with a mid-tempo encore, the adventurous bop tune "Blackfoot" written by Cables.

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