Cookers Confirmed for New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest Set Oct. 9
“Individually, they’ve been at the core of the post-bop jazz scene for decades. As a group, they’ve been thrilling audiences around the world.”
“A dream team of forward-leaning hard-bop”
–New York Times
“Player for player, there’s no better working band in jazz than The Cookers.”
–The Boston Globe
“Each successive Cookers disc is increasingly fiery and forward-reaching.”
Today, jazz supergroup The Cookers announce their return with a new single titled “Somalia,” composed by saxophonist Billy Harper, out tomorrow. The new track is accompanied by details of their first album in five years, Look Out!, which will be released on London tastemaker label and analogue specialists, Gearbox Records, on September 24, 2021 on CD, LP, and in digital formats; as well as confirmation of the band’s appearance at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival October 9; and the National Endowment for the Arts naming drummer Billy Hart and saxophonist Donald Harrison as 2022 Jazz Masters. Here’s the single “Somalia.” (OK to post once live.)
Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, and Billy Hart all came up in the heady era of the mid ‘60s. It was a period that found the dimensions of hard bop morphing from their original designs, and each of these guys helped facilitate the process as members of some of the most important bands of the era. Hart and Henderson were members of Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi group; Cecil McBee anchored Charles Lloyd’s great ’60s quartet alongside Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette; Billy Harper was part of Lee Morgan’s last group, as well as being a member of Max Roach’s Quartet and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers; while George Cables held down the piano chair in numerous bands including groups led by Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Dexter Gordon and Art Pepper. NEA Jazz Master-to-be Hart also accompanied Stan Getz and Charles Lloyd.
David Weiss and Donald Harrison, from a more recent generation and the youngest members of the band, are experts in this forthright lingo, with the former having gained experience performing with Freddie Hubbard and Charles Tolliver. Set for his own NEA Jazz Master status next year, Harrison, born and raised in New Orleans, LA, has performed with Miles Davis, Ron Carter, Notorious BIG, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Esperanza Spalding, Dr. John, and Herbie Hancock.
Recorded at legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s studio at Englewood Cliffs, NJ, the new vinyl will have each of the members signatures inscribed into side D, and also features liner notes by award-winning music critic Kevin Le Gendre.
Whereas the majority of the jazz tradition’s elder statesmen head their own groups, this is one of the few jazz bands to contain legacy musicians of this calibre functioning as an equitable, long-standing ensemble. Every chorus, every unison statement, every solo, every moment of call and response, vividly reflects the immense talent of the musicians, and, perhaps most significantly, the cohesion of their personalities. This exciting all-star septet summons up an aggressive mid ‘60s spirit with 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.
Each of the members of The Cookers are leaders in their own right and have recorded for touchstone labels such as Strata-East, Contemporary and India Navigation. Once carried by history The Cookers have become carriers of history. But it’s the unmistakable power of teamwork that makes this music so commanding and 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 recorded on over 1,000 recordings).
Look Out!, which is the band’s sixth album since its 2010 debut Warriors, marks an unstoppable march forward. The seven pieces on offer highlight the ability of each bandmember-composer to create themes that are worthy of reinvestigation, a major aspect of the jazz aesthetic.
The lead single “Somalia” is a superlative Billy Harper number from the early ‘90s that is a prime examples of a personal thematic language that is deeply rooted in black sacred music traditions but also conjoined to a variety of other vocabularies, above all the propulsion of African grooves and chants. Harper has a gift for majestic lyricism that he sculpts with a steely, piercing tone and ecstatic phrasing that has made him among the most distinctive of post-Coltrane players heard in the past 5 decades.
Elsewhere on the record, titles by bassist Cecil McBee (“Mutima,” “Cat’s Out Of The Bag”) and pianist George Cables (“Traveling Lady,” “The Mystery Of Monifa Brown,” “AKA Reggie”) underline the strength of the composers in the band.
After fourteen years together, again the incredibly high level of musicianship has only increased with the revisiting of their fresh, challenging, boundary-pushing music from these legendary, revered, veteran improvisers who have headlined stages at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage, the Newport Jazz Festival, and LA’s Playboy Jazz Festival.
The Cookers Tour Dates:
August 3 – Blue Note – New York, NY
September 19 – Aretha’s Jazz Cafe at Music Hall – Detroit, MI
September 21-22 – Jazz Alley – Seattle, WA
September 26 – Bach Dynamite & Dancing – Half Moon Bay, CA
October 9 – New Orleans Jazz Festival – New Orleans, LA
November 5-7 – Keystone Korner – Baltimore, MD
March 1-5 – Birdland – New York, NY
Look Out! Tracklist:
1. The Mystery of Monifa Brown (George Cables)
2. Destiny is Yours (Billy Harper)
3. Cats Out of the Bag (Cecil McBee)
4. Somalia (Billy Harper)
5. AKA Reggie (George Cables)
6. Traveling Lady (George Cables)
7. Mutima (Cecil McBee)
Billy Harper – Tenor Sax
Eddie Henderson – Trumpet
David Weiss – Trumpet
Donald Harrison – Alto Sax
George Cables – Piano
Cecil McBee – Bass
Billy Hart – Drums
Produced by David Weiss
Executive Producer Darrel Sheinman
Recorded at Van Gelder Recording Studio
Recording Engineer Maureen Sickler
Mixed by Katherine Miller
Mastered by Darrel Sheinman and Caspar Suttone-Jones at Gearbox Records