It may not receive the worldwide
acclaim of its Swiss namesake, but the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival has been drawing
crowds in the Motor City every summer since its inception in 1980. Bostons Henry
Cook Band was among its 1998 artist roster. The audience was probably unfamiliar with the
bands music, but judging by this recorded document, Cook & company earned a lot
of new fans that Labor Day afternoon. No wonder...any ensemble that dares to tackle a
Charles Mingus classic like "Fables of Faubus" --and succeeds in matching the
bravado of the original--deserves high praise. Here, the leader offers a splendid sample
of his baritone sax work, but elsewhere he proves himself equally adept on alto, as well
For this set, Cooks quintet was augmented by tenor titan Salim
Washington, whose Roxbury Blues Aesthetic (RBA) remains one of Beantowns best-kept
jazz secrets; Cook is also a founding member of RBA. (Local listeners have been blessed
with several opportunities to hear RBA in concert, most recently at last years
Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz.) In addition to this fine sax team, the Cook Band
features Boston legend Bobby Ward on drums, along with trumpeter Cecil Brooks, pianist
Jacques Chanier and bassist Brian McCree. The high level of group interaction attests to
years of woodshedding throughout New England.
Aside from "Faubus," the rest of the material originated from
the pens of either Cook or Ward. Both are seasoned composers. Wards "Latin
Bizarre" kicks off the set with a power-charged calypso that owes more than a little
allegiance to a Dizzy & Bird classic. The piece provides Cook with an opportunity to
show off his flute artistry, as does his own lovely ballad, "Early Morning,"
which captures a time-of-day mood as eloquently as "Round Midnight." Cooks
songwriting is the springboard for some intense, swinging solos on "Metamongo"
and "Third Rail," both underpinned by Wards rock-steady rhythms.
If you enjoy the Cook Bands Live at Montreux, seek out its
1995 debut, Dimensional Odyssey, or the equally-enticing Love in Exile by
Salim Washington & RBA (featuring Cook and Ward), both also available from Accurate
Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2000