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Vermont Jazz Center Presents: The Cookers

Press Release – Please give author’s credit to Eugene Uman, Vermont Jazz Center, 802 254 9088,

The Cookers to Perform at the Vermont Jazz Center on Friday, September 15th at 8:00 PM
Press Release date: August 25th, 2017

Short Summary
Who: The Cookers, an All Star Jazz Septet:
With: Billy Harper, tenor sax; Eddie Henderson and David Weiss, trumpet; Donald Harrison, alto saxophone; George Cables, piano; Cecil McBee, bass; Billy Hart on drums.
What: Original jazz and highly arranged standards, performed by some of the finest jazz musicians in the world.
When: Friday, September 15th, 2017 at 8:00 PM
Where: The Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222, Brattleboro, VT 05301
Tickets available: online at, by email at, by phone 802 254 9088, in person at In The Moment, Main St., Brattleboro, VT.

The Cookers at the Vermont Jazz Center, Friday, Sept. 15th at 8:00 PM

The Vermont Jazz Center will kick off its season with an energetic blast. On Friday, September 15th at 8:00 PM, The Cookers—a septet heralded by Downbeat Magazine as “a group of the world’s best musicians”—will present two sets of jazz at its highest level. The musicians in The Cookers are Billy Harper (tenor Sax), Eddie Henderson and David Weiss (trumpet), Donald Harrison (alto saxophone), George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), and Billy Hart on drums. Each of these individuals is a major leader in their own right, but the unified force of this group is seen as a worthy personal and musical investment by each of its members. As an enduring unit (they’ve been together for over a decade), (comma added) The Cookers perform carefully arranged original music and have been called a “dream team of forward-leaning hard-bop [masters]” (Nate Chinen, New York Times). The rhythm section alone (piano, bass and drums) of George Cables, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart reveals star-power enough to attract any jazz devotee, but when the front (horn) line is added with its glorious combinations of colors and improvisational prowess, the opportunity to hear this group locally is almost too good to be true.

Full disclosure: in order to enjoy The Cookers, listeners really need to pay attention. As pianist George Cables explained in an interview with Rolling Stone: “This is a music that you don’t hear every day on the radio. Sometimes it’s not as accessible as I wish it could be or would be in terms of radio or television or public media. And sometimes it takes an effort to listen to it. It’s a kind of classical music, but it’s a music that was born here in the United States, and I think that it’s one that should be given more attention.” The Cooker’s music winds through a carefully balanced range of emotions, some quiet, beautiful and peaceful (especially when featuring pianist George Cables); other arrangements go to places where the performers really let loose. It is the balance, the exquisite writing, the melodic content and the fascinating blends of instruments that give meaningful context to a full range of expression. Most of the Cooker’s compositions are epic tales that unfold as parables narrated by a master storyteller.

These days, in 2017, there are very few 4-horn bands that perform and tour this style of music with any consistency. In the 1950s and 60s it wasn’t uncommon for a band to tour for months on end; the musicians could be found performing 6 nights a week, honing their musicals skills and developing their repertoire. The greatest of them have left a well-worn footprint of an iconic, collaborative sound that defines an era. Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper views The Cookers as a “continuation of the drive and success of groups like Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Trane…” The group’s name, “The Cookers,” is derived from a 1965 Blue Note release by Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard called “A Night of the Cookers.” Bassist Cecil McBee sums up The Cookers’ relationship to each other and the music this way: “We’re like brothers. Everybody’s very, very focused, and we all have what it takes to make the music, not just playing music, but inventing, creating, and providing something that is very different given that many personalities [are] coming together, which is unusual, and lasting a long time, so we take great pride in that.”

Band Bios
Billy Harper
Harper moved from his native Texas to New York in 1966 and soon began working with jazz giants Gil Evans, Max Roach, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Lee Morgan and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He performed, recorded and toured Europe, Japan, Africa and the United States from 1966 to 1979 with these groups, as well as his own, the Billy Harper Quintet. Throughout Harper’s career, there has been a pattern of spiritual growth and innovation. “My feeling is that music should have a purpose. In the past, it always has been used for healing and uplifting and meditation. And that’s the way I see my music,” said Harper, “I’ve had people come up after a program to tell me that they felt a spiritual healing from the music. When that happens, I feel we’re fulfilling what we’re supposed to do. If people are entertained, that’s ok too but I certainly see a purpose in my music beyond that.”

Harper has produced 20 CDs as a leader/co-leader and as a sideman has recorded with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, McCoy Tyner, Stanley Cowell, Charles Earland, Gil Evans, the Mel Lewis/Thad Jones Orchestra, Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, Charles Tolliver and Randy Weston. He also twice received the International Critics Award for Best Tenor Saxophone.

Eddie Henderson
Trumpeter Henderson received his first informal lesson at the age of nine from Louis Armstrong. Miles Davis, a family friend, admired his tone and encouraged him to pursue a career in music. His stepfather was a doctor to Miles, Coltrane and Duke Ellington. Henderson excelled in both music and academics; he attended medical school and become a doctor. From 1968 until the late ‘80s, Henderson mixed music and medicine. He received his first major musical exposure as a member of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi sextet. He also worked extensively with Pharoah Sanders, Norman Connors and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Eddie was a member of the Latin-jazz group Azteca and fronted his own bands. Eddie has also performed and recorded with such notables as Dexter Gordon, Roy Haynes, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, Kenny Barron, Gary Bartz, Benny Golson, Max Roach and McCoy Tyner.

David Weiss
Weiss is trumpeter and music director of The Cookers. He organizes the ensemble’s schedule and coordinates the music while giving voice to each of the group’s members’ compositions through his detailed arrangements. As a young man Weiss toured and/or recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Charles Tolliver, Billy Harper, Bobby Hutcherson, Slide Hampton, James Moody, Tom Harrell, Louis Hayes, Muhal Richard Abrams, Odean Pope, Geri Allen, Billy Hart, Jaki Byard, Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath. He now organizes, arranges and writes for four active ensembles: The New Jazz Composers Octet, Point of Departure, The Cookers and Endangered Species.

Donald Harrison
Donald was born in New Orleans in 1960 and grew up in a home environment saturated with the city’s traditional music of brass bands, parades, modern Jazz, R&B, Funk, Classical, World and Dance music. His connection to New Orleans roots were deepened by his father, a Big Chief. Donald himself became the Big Chief of The Congo Square Nation Afro-New Orleans cultural group in 1999. Harrison has recorded 27 albums as a leader and has performed and recorded with Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, The Cookers, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Lena Horne, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Eddie Palmieri, Jennifer Holiday, Dr. John, Guru’s Jazzmatazz, McCoy Tyner, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Digable Planets, Notorious BIG, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and many others. Donald played a prominent role in Spike Lee’s HBO documentary When the Levees Broke, and his life-story was portrayed in HBO’s Treme. Donald is also co-founder and artistic director for the Tipitina’s Intern Program and founder of The New Jazz School, which are both based in New Orleans.

George Cables
Cables is acknowledged as one of the finest pianists of his generation. Born in New York City in 1944, Cables attended Mannes College of Music. In his early years he recorded with Max Roach and Paul Jeffrey and earned a brief tenure with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. A 1969 tour with tenor titan Sonny Rollins took Cables to the West Coast and, by 1971, he became a significant figure in the jazz scenes of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Collaborations and recordings with tenor saxophonists Joe Henderson and Sonny Rollins, trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson made Cables’ wide-ranging keyboard skills. He joined hard-bop legend Dexter Gordon in 1977 for two years. The longest standing relationship Cables developed in the late seventies was with alto saxophonist Art Pepper. Cables, who Pepper called “Mr. Beautiful,” became Art’s favorite pianist. He has performed and recorded with some of the greatest jazz musicians of our time, including: Joe Henderson, Roy Haynes, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Sarah Vaughn, Tony Williams, Bobby Hutcherson and Dizzy Gillespie.

Cecil McBee
Bassist Cecil McBee was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After college, he joined the Paul Winter Sextet which led him to his current home-base of New York City. He has recorded and traveled worldwide with Charles Lloyd, Pharoah Sanders, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Michael White, Jackie McLean, Yusef Lateef, Alice Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane, Abdullah Ibrahim, Lonnie Liston Smith, Buddy Tate, Joanne Brackeen, Dinah Washington, Benny Goodman, George Benson, Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter, Art Pepper, Charles Lloyd, Pharoah Sanders, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Billy Harper and Geri Allen. A recipient of two NEA composition grants, McBee has written works that are performed worldwide and have been recorded by Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders and many others. In 1989 he won a Grammy for his performance of “Blues for John Coltrane,” which featured Roy Haynes, David Murray, McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1991.

Billy Hart
Drummer Billy Hart was born and raised in Washington, D.C.. His first prominent gig was with D.C. tenor mentor Buck Hill, who turned him onto Charlie Parker and hired him for steady gigs; during this time he apprenticed with Washington, D.C. drum legends Jimmy Cobb and Osie Johnson. He also learned to play Brazilian rhythms while on the job in gigs with Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. Hart matriculated at Howard University as a mechanical engineering major, but left when Shirley Horn took him on the road. In1967, as a member of the Howard Theatre’s house band, he performed with The Isley Brothers, Sam and Dave, Patti Labelle, Otis Redding and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles among others. He was also a sideman with Jimmy Smith (1964–1966), and Wes Montgomery (1966–1968). In 1968, Hart moved to New York where he recorded with McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, and Joe Zawinul, and played with Eddie Harris, Pharoah Sanders, and Marian McPartland. In 1969, Hart joined Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band and recorded three trend-setting albums. From there he joined McCoy Tyner’s band (1973–1974), Stan Getz (1974–1977), and Quest (1980s) in addition to extensive freelance playing and recording (including recording with Miles Davis on 1972’s On the Corner). Hart currently leads the Billy Hart Quartet featuring Mark Turner, Ethan Iverson and Ben Street

Come to the VJC on Friday (not Saturday), September 15th and prove to yourself what the critics have been proclaiming for years: “player for player, there’s no better working band in jazz than The Cookers” (Andrew Gilbert, The Boston Globe). The VJC is honored to present this septet; the concert will likely sell out, so purchase your tickets in advance. The VJC is especially grateful for the sponsorship of this event by a friend of the Vermont Jazz Center’s Educational Programs. His generous contribution made this concert possible and for this the Jazz Center is deeply grateful. The VJC is also thankful for the ongoing support from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, Hampton Inn of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW, WFCR and Chris Lenois of WKVT’s Green Mountain Mornings.

Tickets for The Cookers at the Vermont Jazz Center are $20+ general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, or online at, by email at Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the VJC at 802 254 9088.

“Sometimes the word ‘super-group’ is just unavoidable…[The Cookers are] an ebullient ensemble composed of supreme veterans, each who is a leader in his own right…at the pinnacle of his technical prowess.” — Jazzwise Magazine (London)

Behind the scenes:

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