Jazz Legacy Productions Effort Features Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, David Weiss, George Cables, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart, and Craig Handy
Jazz veterans, colleagues and kindred spirits Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart forge a world-class union on their auspicious debut for Jazz Legacy Productions. Along with trumpeter David Weiss saxophonist Craig Handy, they are collectively known as Night of the Cookers
. Taking their group name from a 1965 Blue Note album by the late, great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (The Night of the Cookers: Live at Club La Marchal), this exciting new all-star septet summons up an aggressive mid '60s spirit on Warriors, a potent collection of expansive post-bop originals marked by all the requisite killer instincts and pyrotechnic playing expected of some of the heaviest hitters on the scene today.
This CD is called Warriors because this is how I look at these great men," writes trumpeter and band leader Weiss in the liner notes. They came up at a time when this music was at it's most vital and exciting and was part of something epic and historic yet they are still going strong, playing with the same freedom, passion and intensity that is what encompasses this great music."
From Harper's stirring and mystical classic Capra Black" (title track of the tenor titan's 1973 Strata East album that put him on the map) to McBee's dynamic and harmonically rich U-Phoria" to a faithful rendition of Hubbard's driving hard bop gem The Core," The Cookers deliver with passionate intensity on Warriors. Prolific composer McBee also contributes two additional relaxed offerings in the gorgeous ballad Close to You Alone" (a showcase for some beautifully lyrical alto sax playing by Handy) and the soulful Lady Bugg" (which features an outstanding blues-soaked muted trumpet solo by Henderson). Two exquisite jazz waltzes by Cables, the tender Suite Rita Suite, Part 2" and the lilting Spookarella," both feature stunning flute work from Handy. The collection closes on a dramatic note with a rendition of Harper's Priestess," one of the saxophonist's most profoundly moving and best-known compositions as well as the title track of a 1977 Gil Evans Orchestra album. Harper's ferocious abandon on his signature piece reaches jaw-dropping levels of heightened intensity.
This is the sort of music that should reflect the times we live in today as we should be screaming from the rafters trying to fix all that is going wrong in the world today," continues Weiss in the notes to Warriors. Perhaps playing music of great intensity and passion is a start at least and can shake some from their slumber."
From start to finish, this stellar outing resonates with a kind of depth and beauty that speaks of the seasoned track record of its principals (combined, the group has over 250 years of experience in the jazz world and has been a part of over 1,000 recordings). You can feel the collective weight of that experience throughout Warriors.
ABOUT THE COOKERS:
Tenor saxophonist and Houston native Billy Harper is widely regarded as one of the preeminent tenor saxophonists on the scene today. A powerhouse player with a bold, muscular tone on his tenor, he is one of the leading lights in a generation of Coltrane-influenced saxophonists who came up during the '60s. While emulating Trane's passionate intensity and searching quality on the horn, Harper has forged his own unique voice on the instrument through his work with such jazz masters as Gil Evans, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Randy Weston, McCoy Tyner and Max Roach. Harper has led his own bands since the mid '70s (his debut as a leader, 1975's Black Saint, helped launch the Italy-based Black Saint jazz label). More recently, Harper has been a featured member of the Charles Tolliver Big Band. His most recent release as a leader is 2008's Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2.
Trumpeter and San Francisco native Eddie Henderson came up emulating Miles Davis' early fusion experiments, which manifested in his work with the Herbie Hancock Septet during the early '70s (documented on a trio of experimental offerings in Mwandishi, Crossings and Sextant). He later scored triumphs of his own with two funk-fusion albums as a leader for Blue Note, 1976's Sunburst and Heritage. He continued to work through the '80s with colleagues like Buster Williams, Gary Bartz and Billy Hart while also releasing albums of his own. Henderson joined Billy Harper's quintet in 1989 and continued to tour and record with the tenor titan through the '90s. In more recent years, Henderson has played with the Mingus Big Band, the Gerald Wilson Big Band and a new edition of The Leaders. His most recent releases as a leader are 2003's So What, 2004's Time and Spaces and 2006's Precious Moments.
Trumpeter-arranger and New York native Weiss came up in the mid-'80s playing with pianist Jaki Byard, saxophonists Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath while also studying with trumpeters Tommy Turrentine and Bill Hardman. In 1996, he formed the New Jazz Composers Octet, a collective of young New York players and composers. The group debuted on record with 1999's First Steps into Reality, then backed Freddie Hubbard on 2001's New Colors and on 2008's On The Real Side (Hubbard's swan song before he passed away on December 29 of that year.) Weiss' albums as a leader include 2002's Breathing Room, 2004's The Mirror and 2010's Snuck In with his Point of Departure quintet. Weiss is also currently a member of the Charles Tolliver Big Band.
Pianist and New York native Cables has, since the late '60s, been a skilled and in-demand sideman for such jazz giants as Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Frank Foster, Bobby Hutcherson, Frank Morgan, Art Pepper and Dexter Gordon. He recorded frequently as a leader over the years, the most recent being 2008's You Don't Know Me.
Bassist and Tulsa native McBee is one of post-bop's most advanced and versatile bassists. Following two years of conducting a military band, he played with jazz diva Dinah Washington in 1959 and later moved to Detroit to make inroads into the city's burgeoning jazz scene. He joined Paul Winter's folk-jazz ensemble in 1963 and the following year moved to New York, where he found playing opportunities with such cutting edge jazz artists as Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Grachan Moncur III, Jackie McLean, Woody Shaw and Wayne Shorter. He worked alongside Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette in Charles Lloyd's ground-breaking quartet during its heyday (1966's Dream Weaver and Forest Flower) and later in the decade recorded with Pharoah Sanders, Yusef Lateef, Alice Coltrane and Charles Tolliver. Through the '70s, McBee played with Abdullah Ibrahim, Lonnie Liston Smith, Joanne Brackeen, Art Pepper, and Chico Freeman while also recording his first session as a leader, 1974's Mutima. He continued to lead small groups and record through the '80s and '90s and was also a charter member of The Leaders, an '80s collective that included trumpeter Lester Bowie, alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman, pianist Kirk Lightsey and drummer Don Moye. In recent years, McBee has toured and recorded with the Saxophone Summit (Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane), and the Charles Tolliver Big Band.
Drummer and Washington D.C. native Billy Hart is a creative player and prolific composer who has been hugely in-demand since the '60s. He worked early on in his home town with saxophonist Buck Hill and singer Shirley Horn, and later worked with the Montgomery Brothers (1961), organist Jimmy Smith (1964-1966) and guitarist Wes Montgomery (1966-1968). A member of Herbie Hancock's experimental sextet from 1969 to 1973, Hart played on Miles Davis' provocative 1972 recording On The Corner and later worked with McCoy Tyner (1973-1974) and Stan Getz (1974-1977). A charter member of the '80s cooperative band Quest (with saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Ron McClure and pianist Richie Beirach), Hart has recently recorded and toured with pianist Marc Copland, the Saxophone Summit, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc and a new incarnation of The Leaders. Hart has recorded frequently as a leader for a number of labels, most recently on 2006's Route F and 2009's Live at the Café Damberd.
Saxophonist and Oakland native Craig Handy attended North Texas State University (1981-1984) and subsequently worked with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Haynes, and Abdullah Ibrahim. He recorded with Elvin Jones, Betty Carter, Ray Drummond, Roy Haynes and Cecil Brooks III and is a charter member of the Mingus Big Band, the New Jazz Composers Octet and the Charles Tolliver Big Band. His most recent recording as a leader is 2000's Flow.
August 29: Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, New York, NY