Monday, June 4, 2012

NEW ALBUMS FROM THE COOKERS, CURTIS FULLER AND VIRGINA MAYHEW ARE ON THE WAY

The Cookers is the brainchild of jazz trumpeter David Weiss. He assembled the all-star band—Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, Craig Handy, George Cables, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart—seven years ago. The Cookers have made three albums. Their new album “believe” shows the band is still cooking pardon the pun. Motema’ Records will release ”believe” the 12th of June.

There’re a bunch of all-star jazz bands out there, but none compares to the Cookers. It’s a project that could’ve easily gone awry given the amount of star power involved, but Weiss keeps the band from being an ego-fest. There’re eight originals on “believe”. The album comes off like a structured jam session. Surprisingly, there’re no standout solos, but the Cookers are in sync throughout.

“Down Home” is jazz trombone player Curtis Fuller’s new album. Fuller was able to channel his old-self. Not that there’s something wrong or un-cool about the present day Curtis Fuller. The man can still blow.

Fuller’s last album “The Story of Kathy and Me” was a love letter to his departed wife. Fuller was in full sentimental mode. Although it didn’t catch on like some of his other albums it was one of his best. On “Down Home,” Fuller is in full swing mode.

There’re some things about Fuller that will never change. Giving his sidemen equal billing is his trademark. The jazz men on “Down Home”—Keith Oxman, Al Hood, Chip Stephens, Ken Walker, and Todd Reid—occasionally play with Fuller.

This is Oxman’s band, and Fuller is he special guest, but Oxman treats Fuller like an elder statesman and the leader.

With Oxman, Fuller has similar chemistry he had with Coltrane on the classic “Blue Train”. On the slow jam “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” Oxman sounds like Coltrane blessed his horn. Capri Records will release “Down Home” the 19th of June.

Mary Lou Williams’ centennial is near. The late jazz piano player was a major figure in jazz. At her Manhattan apartment during be bop's infancy, William schooled Dizzy, Bird, Monk, and Roach on how to play chord changes at a super fast tempo.

Williams developed her skills during the swing era playing in Andy Kirk’s big band. For Williams' centennial, tenor saxphone player Virginia Mayhew throws Williams a big birthday bash, releasing a tribute album “Mary Lou Williams-The Next 100 Years”.

If Williams were alive, she’d appreciate Mayhew’s gift, and the attention to details she gives to eight Williams’ originals she plays.  Mayhew 's most endearing gift to Williams is special guest trombone player Wycliffe Gordon. Picture Gordon springing from a big birthday cake, swinging like the devil.

Some jazz critics compare Mayhew to Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. None of her solos on "Mary Lou Williams-The Next 100 Years" suggest she’s a copycat, or worst a showboater. Clean and spirited describes her playing. 

On Williams’ well-known songs “Black Coffee” and “What’s Your Story Morning Glory,” Mayhew doesn't stray too far from how Williams designed them. Instead an overhaul Mayhew gives Williams' originals a spit shine.
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