The Cookers, an all-star band headed by New York trumpeter David Weiss and featuring George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums), Billy Harper (tenor saxophone) and Eddie Henderson (trumpet) plays Seattle's Jazz Alley Tuesday and Wednesday, June 26-27.
The ’50s and ’60s were the golden age of jazz, then everything went to hell.
That’s the orthodoxy, right? Sure, but you know what? It’s wrong.
For anybody who was listening — and the problem was, not many were — the ’70s ranks at the very least as a silver decade, a time when a new bop mainstream coalesced from the old. It was the period when piano players regularly began to navigate two keys at the same time, offering floating modal harmonies and altered scales all about color; when drummers implied two, sometimes three meters simultaneously, swinging easily in time signatures beyond 4/4; and when slinky melodies stopped and started and twisted and turned, often with intertwining horns and layered rhythms churning beneath.
If that sounds like something you like, get yourself down to Jazz Alley Tuesday or Wednesday for the Seattle debut of The Cookers. Started five years ago by New York trumpeter David Weiss as a Freddie Hubbard tribute band (the name comes from Hubbard’s famous album), this all-star group plays with the coherence and abandon of a seasoned ensemble. It consists of George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums), Billy Harper (tenor saxophone), Eddie Henderson (trumpet) and Weiss himself. (Alto saxophonist Craig Handy had to miss this gig because of a conflict.)
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“Like it or not, that era produced the best musicians we’ve seen,” explained Weiss in a phone interview from the San Francisco airport, after the band sold out two nights at Yoshi’s in Oakland. “But they got short shrift, that generation. When it was their time to be stars, the labels were gone.”
There’s a label for them now — Motema — and the band’s new album, aptly titled “Believe,” is a cooker, indeed. Consisting of seven originals and a Wayne Shorter tune (“Free For All”) and featuring rich, thick, smart arrangements by Weiss, “Believe” bristles with fiery conviction from start to finish. The two compositions by Cables — the lightly Latinish “Ebony Moonbeams” and an easy waltz, “But He Knows” — are special attractions. But the band also takes the Shorter tune to the precipice and back, with the locomotive Harper referencing late Coltrane, Handy kissing his solo goodbye with a wiggling gliss and Cables skittering over the keys like a mosquito with a mission.
“Tight Squeeze” gives Miles Davis and Shorter veteran McBee welcome space to shine, as Hart serves up a narrative on drums and cymbals that plays like a little story. Hart’s celebratory closer, “Naaj,” is that rare jazz tune you walk away from whistling.
For fans who grouse that Jazz Alley doesn’t book enough “real jazz” these days, here’s your chance.
Show up or shut up.
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org