The Cookers come out swinging hard on “Cast The First Stone” (Plus Loin Music), the first track on their album of the same name. It’s a robust, formidable expression of talent and post bop fervor – the band’s name comes from Freddie Hubbard’s 1965 Blue Note live release, “Night Of The Cookers.” This band has a righteous roster – the front line is comprised of Billy Harper on tenor sax, Craig Handy on alto sax, and two trumpeters, Eddie Henderson and David Weiss. The rhythm section is no less esteemed with George Cables on piano, Cecil McBee on bass and Billy Hart on drums. Plus, the Coltrane-inspired Azar Lawrence, a shrewd saxophonist capable of harmonic and tonal somersaults, sits in for four of the seven tracks.
As a septet, all veterans of the 60s save for Weiss and Handy, they move easily between the gritty and lyrical. Pianist Cables binds “Peacemaker” and especially, “Looking For The Light” with seductive comping and sensitive solos. The pick hit is definitely “Croquet Ballet,” which soars on a memorable theme and prescient exchanges between the band. Hardly a throwback to the sounds made popular by Lee Morgan, Hubbard and Blakey, this collective has, as Weiss points out, a “play hard and mean it” ethic that doesn’t disappoint and you can’t begrudge them for keeping this hardcore jazz sound alive. (7 tracks; 61:21 minutes)
Labels: Azar Lawrence, Billy Harper, Billy Hart, Cecil McBee, Craig Handy, David Weiss, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Plus Loin Music, The Cookers