The Cookers – Believe – Motema MTM-92, 64:03 ****:
(Billy Harper, tenor sax; Eddie Henderson, trumpet; David Weiss, trumpet; Craig Handy, alto sax; George Cables, piano; Cecil McBee, bass; Billy Hart, drums)
The Cookers, a dream group made up of jazz royalty, each a leader in their own right, has continued to prove that egos can be set aside when the joy of making strikingly original music is accomplished. We have reviewed their October 2010 issue Warriors, and the following Spring came Cast the First Stone.
Now for their third CD, they have found a new label, Motema, and let’s hope that they have also have a long term home label so they can concentrate on what they do best, serving up a hot platter of hard bop and post-bop musical stew. Believe celebrates their fifth anniversary as a cohesive band, founded by their youngest member, trumpeter David Weiss. David, along with alto saxist Craig Handy, are the youngsters in the group, surrounded by artists pushing twice their age.
What makes each Cookers release a special occasion is the fact that the material on their issues is a real cross section of compositional styles. Billy Harper can stretch the boundaries of mainstream hard bop, while pianist George Cables provides lyrical beauty. Cecil McBee can go either direction and the two trumpeters, Weiss and Henderson, provide front line hard bop sass. Craig Handy’s tenure with drummers Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones shows he is ready for anything. Billy Hart has provided the pulse for artists ranging from Shirley Horn and Wes Montgomery to modern day artists like Ethan Iverson, so you know he is eclectic. It must be a given that David Weiss looks forward to every minute leading this dynamic group.
Believe begins with Billy Harper’s “Believe, For It is True”, which blends sweet front line unison lines with free blowing by its author. A new composition by Cecil McBee follows, and it has a mysterious air that suggests several visits to fully appreciate its message. Eddie Henderson channels Miles Davis while George Cables’ gentle, yet probing lines helps set the mood.
Cables’ “Ebony Moonbeams” first recorded back in the 70s for a Freddie Hubbard release, is gorgeous, blending several start and stop choruses, and Henderson and Handy share honors with Cables.
Wayne Shorter’s “Free for All”, first made famous during Shorter’s tenure with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, is the longest track here at near twelve minutes. It will likely earn a lot of airplay as it’s a real barn-burner providing extended solo time for most of the band’s members.
Billy Harper’s anthemic “Quest” has a march beat set by Hart before the tune combines pretty ensemble passages balanced by Harper’s acerbic tenor choruses. Cables’ “But He Knows” follows and shows off the Cookers’ lyrical prowess, and Weiss’ muted trumpet is striking. Cecil McBee’s “Tight Squeeze takes us back to serious “open” country, and is balanced once again by Billy Hart’s “Naaj”, where Craig Handy takes lead.
Props should be given to Weiss who did the arrangements for six of the eight tracks, as well as handling the production duties. We should be in debt to David for putting this dream group together. As I mentioned in my review of the second Cookers release, David would make us all happy if he could just coordinate the members’ schedules so as to get the Cookers again on the road for another West Coast mini-tour. Pretty please…
Tracklist: Believe, For It is Free; Temptations(s), Ebony Moonbeams, Free for All, Quest, But he Knows, Tight Squeeze, Naaj
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