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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Sep 17, 2021

Jazz supergroup The Cookers announce their return to the scene with their first album in five years, Look Out! The band is currently composed of Billy Harper (tenor sax), Cecil McBee (bass), George Cables (piano), Eddie Henderson and David Weiss (trumpet), plus two newly minted Jazz Masters from the National Endowment for the Arts - drummer Billy Hart and alto saxophonist Donald Harrison.

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 Hart also accompanied Stan Getz and Charles Lloyd. The younger 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, Look Out! ’s seven pieces 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. 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.

I spoke with Donald Harrison only a few weeks after he learned of his honor as an NEA Jazz Master. Podcast 843 is our conversation, as we discuss what the honor means to him, how he came to be in The Cookers, and how he integrates old and new music into his many projects. Musical selections include the McBee composition "Cat's Out the Bag" from Look Out! and "One of a Kind" from Donald's highly respected album Nouveau Swing