The Cookers ‘Look Out!’ 2LP/CD (Gearbox) 4/5

Recorded at the legendary Van Gelder studios in New Jersey and released on the London based Gearbox Records, ‘Look Out’ is the sixth album by The Cookers. It’s been five years since the last album, due to extensive touring. The ensemble Features Billy Harper: tenor sax, Eddie Henderson: trumpet, David Weiss: trumpet, Donald Harrison: alto sax, George Cables: piano, Cecil McBee: bass and Billy Hart: drums.
The group’s 2014 album ‘Time and Time Again’ was voted iTunes best selling jazz album of the year with titles including ‘Sir Galahad’ and ‘Dance Eternal Spirits Dance’, showcasing the strong arrangements, collective composure, spirit and the understanding accrued over many years of experience alongside fellow zeitgeists within the jazz world. This latest album brings more of the same cohesive sparks and inventiveness which each member has brought to the group. It’s definitely a collective effort and a joyful listen with some superb solos and notes on each of the seven performances.

The album features original, fresh pieces written by Cecil McBee, Billy Harper, and George Cables and there’s a soulful jazz edge running through each of the seven tracks. The album opens up with an uplifting George Cables’ composition for presenter/writer Monifa Brown who has, through her various channels, been championing jazz and the artists over many years. It’s a perfect start with a Jazz Messengers feel and some wonderful solos. Other writing contributions by George Cables include ‘AKA Reggie’, a tinted lights down low piece and the shuffling midtempo groove of ‘Travelling Lady’.

Billy Harper delivers a huge and bold sound on his compositions ‘Destiny is Yours’ and ‘Somalia’ and it’s of a tempo that seems perfect for him and the other soloists on board. The chanting on ‘Somalia’ brings a welcome angle to the proceedings and a deep spiritual tone that seems Strata-East like in comparison.

Cecil McBee’s ‘Mutima’ is the final track on the album and it rounds off an understated masterclass in musicianship featuring artists who have performed through the jazz timeline, stretching way back to Max Roach and Lee Morgan, always in but stretching out to expand the horizons without losing the essence and respect of the past and its influence.

Eddie Henderson and Billy Hart were integral figures within the more adventurous jazz fusion period in the 1970s and valued members of Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi group. Donald Harrison was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and went on to record some exceptional albums including his debut album alongside Terence Blanchard titled ‘New York Second Line’ in 1985. He also dipped into hip hop with the Digable Planets on their ‘Blowout’ album. David Weiss has had an interesting career that included a path from art school to attend Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio, studying with artists including George Lewis, Jimmy Giuffre, Leo Smith and Pauline Oliveros, before performing alongside Charles Tolliver, Bobby Hutcherson and many other well-known jazz artists.

This ensemble continues to grow and inspire with their rooted composed sound and ‘Look Out’ is no exception. A warm and enjoyable listen featuring some of jazz’s most respected veterans.

Mark Jones

Read also:
The Cookers ‘Time and Time Again’ CD (Motéma) 4/5