Jazz CD Reviews
The Cookers – Cast the First Stone – Plus Loin Music
Published on April 2, 2011
The Cookers – Cast the First Stone – Plus Loin Music PL4536, 61:19 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
(Billy Harper, tenor sax; Eddie Henderson, trumpet; David Weiss, trumpet; Craig Handy, alto sax (tracks 1-5); George Cables, piano; Cecil McBee, bass; Billy Hart, drums; with special guest, Azar Lawrence, tenor and soprano sax)
There are great hard bop groups made up of veteran superstars. Then there are The Cookers, a dream group, which was formed by musical director, trumpeter, David Weiss. When we previously reviewed their last CD on JLP in Oct. 2010 I felt that it would probably be a one time grouping as the caliber of artists represented in this group, that of some of best jazz senior citizens still active on the scene, would likely be too busy with their own projects and groups to record another session. Thank goodness I was wrong, as Cast the First Stone proves on the Plus Loin Music label. They have even sweetened the pot by adding the resurgent Azar Lawrence, on four tracks. Azar’s presence here adds some edginess that seems to inspire the playing of the group. All the tracks recorded early April 2010, in Brooklyn, were written by band members – with the exception of Harold Mabern’s “The Chief,” which was written for Lee Morgan, one of the inspirations for the Cooker’s moniker, along with Freddie Hubbard.
Billy Harper starts off the title track on a tear complete with wild wailing and honking. Cables provides piano fills for the four-horn front line, and Billy Hart provides the pulsating drive to push the band right to the edge.
Cecil McBee’s “The Peacemaker” lightens the mood and shows off the lyrical side and sweet ensemble blend of the horns. Eddie Henderson shows his mastery on muted trumpet, even comparable to Miles Davis in the 1950s. The mid tempo ballad, “Looking for the Light”, penned by George Cables, benefits from Azar Lawrence’s soprano sax skill. Henderson blows several choruses of mid-register open trumpet.
Billy Harper’s “The Seventh Day” has a 1960s Blue Note feel to it. Harper again digs in and pours out his heart on his solo. “Croquet Ballet” (another Harper composition) was recorded by Harper with Lee Morgan on Morgan’s Last Session, Blue Note issue in 1971. David Weiss echoes Morgan here, and Craig Handy’s alto sax solo stands out as well.
George Cables’ “Think of Me” is lovely and highlights Cables’ mastery of the ballad. Henderson and Lawrence share solo honors, with Azar matching Harper for the intensity he showed on earlier tracks. “The Chief” closes out the CD and both shows considerable ensemble blend, as well as a tenor sax blow-off between Lawrence and Harper.
I kick myself for missing out on the opportunity to see the Cookers when they made an abbreviated tour of the West Coast last year. If their new CD gets the attention that it deserves, maybe David Weiss can put together another trip across the country to share this dream group’s talents.
TrackList: Cast the First Stone, Peacemaker, Looking for the Light, The Seventh Day, Croquet Ballet, Think of Me, The Chief
— Jeff Krow