Produced by Fred Seibert
1. Waltz for Junior
Junior Cook /tenor saxophone
Walter Booker /bass
Al Dailey /piano
Slide Hampton /trombone
Bill Hardman /trumpet, flugelhorn
Mario Rivera /baritone saxophone
Leroy Williams /drums
Arrangements: Slide Hampton
Muse Records MR 5159
This album dramatizes the importance of giving more attention to virile, genuinely creative musicians who have paid their dues many times over and are regarded highly by their peers. Casting Junior Cook with leadership credits and rights at this late date is emblematic of the conspicuous lack of opportunity for proper recognition, especially in this era of overnight “stardom” and excessive recording… and of the void Muse is helping to fill.
Juinor Cook has been cookin’ with his hot tenor for over twenty years. During his long tenure with Horace Silver’s quintet between May 1958 and March 1964, Cook has assuredly demonstrated his sordid ability to communicate an inspired immediacy in his playing; he had already become an eloquent spokesman for hard bop tenor. At the threshold of the 1980s, Cook’s maturation has long passed the percolating, simmering stage and into the boiling phase as a challenging jazz tenor saxophonist.
The late Blue Mitchell and Cook formed a consistently tight, sympatico twosome of horns for the pace-setting Silver band. ”Although Blue gained more attention from the jazz community, Junior was every bit the tenor player that Blue was on trumpet,” said Silver. ”They were an incredible pair. Junior has an unusual ability to anticipate, to feed on other players’ ideas and to egg others on.” After they left the band, Cook and Mitchell continued together for 5 years. Then in the ’70s Cook was engaged in a variety of activities — a few years with Freddie Hubbard, teaching at Berklee College and stints with Elvis Jones, George Coleman among others, plus co-leading bands with Louis Hayes (Timeless-Muse T1 307 ”Ichi Ban”) and more recently with Bill Hardman. As Horace Silver observed, “Junior’s ableness to sustain himself as a producer working musician for such a long time speaks much in terms of his strengths and credits.”
Bill Hardman has most notably been an intermittent member of Art Blake’s Jazz Messengers for more than twenty years, beginning in 1956, contributing to his melodic, incandescent vitality to the band. His spirited trumpet has also been heard with the likes of Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver, and Charles Mingus. Going back to the fifties as a contemporary of Cook’s, they share the celebration of hard swing and classic jazz. For a couple of years they have been leading a band together with Walter Davis or Mickey Tucker, Chin Suzuki and Leroy Williams — the drummer on this album.
The arranger-trombonist in the front line of horns is Slide Hampton, another alumnus of the Jazz Messengers, an edition in the mid-sixties which sparkled with Hardman, Hampton, Billy Harper on tenor and the rhythm team of McCoy Tyner, Junie Booth and Blakey. Hampton reminisced: “It was very intense — very heavy company to be in… Hardman and the rest of the cats ran me ragged.” After a decade in Europe, Hampton’s return to the U.S. has been met with consuming activity — clinics, concerts, and such special recording projects such as arranging the music for Dexter Gordon and the album at hand. He was commissioned to do some charts for Woody Herman’s Monterey Jazz Festival concert last year, plus some music for the Tokyo Union Band’s U.S. debut in the upcoming 1980 MJF. ”Spending optimum time studying and acquiring knowledge about orchestration must come from the individual first,” Slide explained, “so I’m enjoying more and benefiting more by developing my own ability as a soloist than I did before. Now I play mostly with my quartet or quintet.”
Pianist Albert Dailey and drummer Leroy Williams both play in World of Trombones — Slide Hampton’s nine-trombone band. Dailey is one of the most talented, consistently refreshing pianists around. His magnificent 1972 album The Day After The Dawn is a durable gem which illustrates how his playing is affected by his impressive skills in composing and arranging. ”I’ve always liked Albert’s feeling and conceptual approach. He’s a very personal player who has his own style,” says Cook. Dailey’s working dossier is rich and extensive — Gordon, Blakely, Herman, Rollins, Mingus, Getz, etc. Predictaby he performs with finely-wrought excellence on this album; his voicing and comping are particularly noteworthy.
The bass of Walter Booker is another familiar sound. Historically, his most prominent tenure was via his seven year alliance with Cannonball Adderly and a long hitch with Sarah Vaughan. And Leroy Williams’ crisp, tasty swing has been closely associated with pianist Barry Harris for over a decade besides his work with the likes of Booker Ervin, Rollins, Getz, Monk, James Moody, and Yusef Lateef.
From the first pulsating moments of the album’s opening tune, “J.C.,” attention is swayed to the attractive voicing and expansive sound coming from a relatively small band. Hampton’s melodic/harmonic approach and coherence in arranging creates a sound beyond the mere four horn ensemble — an ability recalling the nuances and spirit of Tadd Dameron’s harmonic acuity language. At times it’s reminiscent of James Moody’s band of the fifties. Cook’s aim was to have Hampton achieve the open harmony of “a small band sounding like a big band.”
“J.C.” was first inspired through a fortuitous circumstance — “I was sleeping and awoke to hear a great sound on the radio — it was Blue Mitchell and Slide playing one of Slide’s tunes based on Coltrane’s ‘Lazy Bird,’” Cook recalled. The tune was “Trane Changes,” one of three tunes Hampton has now written on the same chords as “Lazy Bird;” Cook had invited Hampton “to do one for me, too!”
Cook lets loose rhapsodically on the old Tommy Dorsey theme song “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” and gets off a brisk set of glowing extemporizations with rippling fluency. Joe Fields reported his impressions from the performance in the recording studio ecstatically: “Junior was blowing up a storm. He was buoyant and magnificent… the piece had no arrangement, but it stuck out like a sore thumb!”
“Play Together Again” offers composer Hampton and Cook a crack up front at the lectern to express themselves. Hampton’s responsive, shapely statement shows his aforementioned great pleasure in soloing and Cook’s muscular bursts are satisfying. Dailey’s private imprint adds even more of an invitation to revisit.
The tuneful 24-bar blues with a waltz theme, “Waltz For Junior” spotlights Cook’s mature, firm tone outfitted with power which doesn’t tread into areas of excess. Hampton and Booker grab a share of the limelight too.
The welcome resurrection of Dizzy Gillespie’s “I Waited For You,” a magnificent tune, has an inexplicably lean recorded history. ”It’s such a beautiful ballad and hasn’t been done for a long time,” Cook said. ”I requested Slide to arrange it for me.” Cook’s ripely plump, expressive tenor solo has a singing clarity of line and he discriminatingly plays only meaningful notes. Like Bill Hardman, he doesn’t throw away anything…every note having weight in its place.
“Mood” is another appealing emergence from Slide’s inventiveness. It winds up the album with solos capturing the scents, colors and harmony of feeling in the group. By the way, the anchor man in the horns is Marlo Rivera who fills out the bottom contours of the ensemble. I first heard his sonorous baritone at Sweet Basil’s in NYC playing with Cook, Frank Strozier and George Coleman in the octet led by Coleman last winter. The rhythm section unfolds its tasteful resourcefulness again within the discipline of Hampton’s components. Cohesion and variety in harmony, melody, and rhythm discloses the unity and daring of the penetrating trio.
Slide Hampton’s words make a fitting addendum on Junior Cook: “The last few times I have played with Junior — I feel he has started to become a giant! The level of creative energy coming from him was not necessarily frightening…but man, it was really a great experience. In fact, when we played at the Village Gate, he was approaching the energy comparable to Trane and Sonny!”
Junior Cook and friends have done a lot of good cookin’…rare but well done.
Copyrights and masters owned by their respective owners. I’m posting many of my out-of-print record productions from the 1970s. If any of them are re-released, or the copyright owners object, I’ll delete the posts.