The very idea of The Cookers is something of a pleasing paradox. It's a band that's populated by some of the most impressive and seasoned veterans out there, but it plays like an anti-super group; it's a real deal band, not a big payday or business venture, and nobody's phoning it in, grandstanding, or letting any bullshit get in the way of the music.
This band has established itself as a no-nonsense outfit over the course of seven years and three previous albums, delivering music that speaks to today's ears yet recalls the rough and tumble days when its members cut their teeth on the jazz scene. Everybody involved marries intelligence and passion in their playing.
While all of these musicians are established leaders in their own right, democracy seems to rule when they get together under the banner of The Cookers. Five of the seven players contribute music to the program here, everybody gets a chance to blow, the arrangements are rock solid but malleable enough, and musical rapport is evident throughout. A hard-edged sound underscores much of this work, and the music certainly has a hard-bop meets post-bop sound to it, but few of the songs are cut from the same cloth. These men can project nobility and nostalgia before diving into the fray ("Sir Galahad"), deliver bluesy fare with a unique personality ("Slippin' And Slidin'"), fire on all cylinders ("Double Or Nothing"), and tip their collective cap to a gone-too-soon comrade ("Farewell Mulgrew").
No single player dominates during this program, but a few tend to stand out. Saxophonist Billy Harper
is one of them. His playing is almost beyond belief, delivered with a level of directness and assurance that's light years removed from the studious-but-safe sound that so many younger players rely on. His brilliantly barbed blowing and brash-meets-controlled calculations make him the obvious MVP within this group of most valuable players. The other two standoutspianist George Cables
and drummer Billy Hart
deserve as much credit for their individual contributions as they do for their connectivity. They work together on a level that few pianists and drummers can reach, with bassist Cecil McBee
serving as the binding agent that cements their relationship. When brought together, the aforementioned players, trumpeters Eddie Henderson
and David Weiss
, and the band's newest member, saxophonist Donald Harrison
, make for a jazz murderers' row; they hit the ball out of the park every single time on this one.
Sir Galahad; Reneda; Slippin' And Slidin'; Double Or Nothing; Farewell Mulgrew; Three
Fall; Time And Time Again; Dance Of The Invisible Nymph; Dance Eternal Spirits
Billy Harper: tenor saxophone; Eddie Henderson: trumpet; David Weiss: trumpet;
Donald Harrison: alto saxophone; George Cables: piano; Cecil McBee: bass; Billy Hart: