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The University of Hartford

Henry Cook Band – Live at Montreux Detroit
Accurate Records

By Chuck Obuchowski

    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. Boston’s Henry Cook Band was among its 1998 artist roster. The audience was probably unfamiliar with the band’s 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 as flute.
    For this set, Cook’s quintet was augmented by tenor titan Salim Washington, whose Roxbury Blues Aesthetic (RBA) remains one of Beantown’s 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 year’s 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. Ward’s "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." Cook’s songwriting is the springboard for some intense, swinging solos on "Metamongo" and "Third Rail," both underpinned by Ward’s rock-steady rhythms.
    If you enjoy the Cook Band’s 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 Records: www.accuraterecords.com.

Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2000

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