Not resting on their laurels…
The Cookers – The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart – Smoke Sessions SSR 1607, 74:08 ****:
(Eddie Henderson – trumpet; David Weiss – trumpet; Donald Harrison – alto sax; Billy Harper – tenor sax; George Cables – piano; Cecil McBee – bass; Billy Hart – drums)
For their fifth CD release the super-star jazz ensemble, The Cookers, have moved to the Smoke Sessions Records label. This is a smart move both artistically, and hopefully on the marketing side. Smoke Sessions have been releasing some of the best hard bop and progressive jazz issues over the last several years, ranging from jazz icons such as George Coleman, Harold Mabern, Louis Hayes, and Jimmy Cobb, as well as from more contemporary artists as Orrin Evans and Peter Bernstein. (The label also released a CD from the Cookers’ trumpeter, Eddie Henderson – Collective Portrait).
What is so exciting about The Cookers is that they continue to release vibrant, creative music at this stage in their careers. Founding member trumpeter, David Weiss, and newest member, altoist Donald Harrison, are both in their ‘50s, while the balance of the musicians are in their ‘70s (bassist Cecil McBee is 81..). It would be easy to rest on their prior achievements, content to travel and play head arrangements for audiences happy just to hear them all play together in the same room. However, the group would not have lasted for the nine plus years that they have been together. Restlessness would have set in by now.
Credit should be given to Weiss, who put the Cookers together, and has had a large say in proposing the new arrangements from their collective songbooks. David has done a lot of these arrangements, but the members also handle some of these duties. Billy Harper arranged his three compositions on this CD.
The eight tracks presented here blend both the edgy and the groove-oriented sides of this band, which is their specialty. Their music demands concentration, but you will be tapping your feet as well. The title track is a perfect example. It is from Billy Harper and there is both anguished bellowing from his tenor backed with lyrical flourishes from George Cables and spot on ensemble blends from the horns. “Beyond Forever” from Cables features Eddie Henderson on trumpet in a hard bop romp. Donald Harrison, on his second CD with the band, follows soulfully while George has several blues choruses.
Cecil McBee’s “Third Phase” is next, and Eddie and Donald again take lead. It begins in a mellow vein with piano and a horn blend before Henderson’s solo. Cecil’s bass solo is well recorded and very resonant. “Teule’s Redemption” from the pen of Billy Hart enters freer territory but the four horn front line keep a cap on its avant leanings.
Billy Harper’s “If One Could Only See” shows his tender side. It’s a sublime ballad perfectly suited to Eddie Henderson’s lyrical trumpet strengths. “Blackfoot” has an insistent Native American piano riff off which the trumpet and sax improvise.
The most memorable track for me is the closer, “Thy Will Be Done,” written by Billy Harper. It mixes the spirituality of Coltrane with the front line horn groove of a Blakey contingent. This is what The Cookers do best, burning with all cylinders, equally adept at a slow boil, and at high heat…
TrackList: The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart, Beyond Forever, Third Phase, Teule’s Redemption, If One Could Only See, Blackfoot, Oceans of Time, Thy Will Be Done
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