Home Jazz Jazz legends from supergroup The Cookers to perform in Oakland

Jazz legends from supergroup The Cookers to perform in Oakland


For most groups, the idea of ​​a betting pool covering which player could be the first selected as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master would be ludicrous.

In the case of The Cookers, the odds of winning the pot are pretty good. In July, two members of the septet, drummer Billy Hart and alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, were selected for the nation’s highest jazz honor, and they will be celebrated at the 2022 awards ceremony on March 31 at SFJazz Center. Four more cooks have been nominated in recent years and are arguably well overdue for the crowning of Jazz Masters.

“Even before that, Donald was saying, ‘They gave it to the whole Marsalis family, they should give it to the Cookers,” said trumpeter David Weiss. “I hope it will continue to flow.”

A respected arranger who directs several ensembles, Weiss is the junior member of The Cookers, which he launched in 2007 as a vehicle for some of the most prodigious jazz artists to emerge on the post-bop scene of the 1960s. He does more than stick it out with his legendary comrades, but is the first to admit he’s not a likely contender for the award.

Starring tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, pianist George Cables, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and bassist Cecil McBee, the band was scheduled to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival this weekend, but were taken off the reduced list in the event of a pandemic. Instead, the entire septet will perform Sunday afternoon at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay, and the Piedmont Piano Company of Oakland came to the rescue at the last minute to ensure that the Bay Area trip was no wash, featuring two focus groups led by different cooks.

On Friday, a quartet led by San Francisco-bred trumpeter Eddie Henderson will perform at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. (with the first show also available live). He will be joined by fellow Cooker member Cables and the stellar rhythm section tandem of drummer Sylvia Cuenca and bassist Essiet Essiet (who stood out widely in Art Blakey’s latest iteration of Jazz Messengers). .

Henderson, 80, grew up surrounded by prominent black artists, as his mother was a dancer performing at the Cotton Club and his stepfather was a doctor who treated many musicians, including Miles Davis. Henderson also followed a path in medicine, and although he was a gifted trumpeter, he did not take the step in a musical career until he made his residency at UCSF’s Langley Porter Hospital and Psychiatric Clinics.

A three-year stint with Herbie Hancock Mwandishi’s seminal sextet / septet (which also included Cookers drummer Billy Hart) from 1970 to 1973 made Henderson a force to be reckoned with, and as he began recording his own albums, he explored the jazz / rock fusion territory. Since the 1980s, he has mainly worked in unplugged environments, where his tart, crackling tone cannot be confused with any other player.

“He’s completely unique,” ​​Weiss said. “I remember doing a few trumpet summits with him and what I always notice is that he is completely out of step with the competition. You got all these trumpeters spitting all those high notes, yelling at each other, and Eddie just does that thing. Eddie is all personality. It is one of those originals. You can hear the story and hear the swing in every sentence he plays.

On Saturdays, Billy Harper leads a quintet with chef David Weiss, Cables, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Jaimeo Brown, playing shows at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. (with the first session also available via livestream). A serious contender for the title of jazz’s greatest active tenor saxophonist, Harper made his mark as foil for a series of authoritative drummers including Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Max Roach. Like his fellow cooks, he has focused much of his creative energy on composition, which he sees as a seamless extension of his improvisation practice.

“For most jazzmen, the playing is the most important part,” Harper said. “While you’re playing and improvising, you can take any part of it and it becomes a song. I learned that it was very easy to do that by playing with Max, who was a very structured type of player and songwriter. As an improviser, you always create songs.

Last minute concerts at Piedmont Piano Company highlight the role the store has played for musicians throughout the pandemic. In May 2020, owner Jim Callahan invested over $ 10,000 in audio and video equipment to present high-quality live broadcasts, all of which are archived on YouTube and the store’s website. With the piano business booming throughout the pandemic, he wanted to offer concerts to hard-pressed musicians, who kept all the benefits of the Paypal link highlighted during broadcasts.

“I’m scared to watch and see how much we’re actually spending,” Callahan said. “We see how many people are looking at them. Some shows get over 10,000 views. We’re just trying to put money in musicians’ pockets. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to put the Piedmont Piano Company name and face in front of every show. But really, we love music.

Since taking over the Uptown Art Deco showroom in 2005, the store has hosted some of the best musicians in jazz, classical and Brazilian music. Even with this impressive track record, this weekend’s shows stand out with a lineup of artists who have shaped the course of jazz for around five decades.

Piedmont Piano Co. is located at 1728 San Pablo Ave. in Oakland. For more information on ticketing, click here.