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The Cookers: Believe

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Few all-star groups are also working bands. The personnel of the Cookers has been stable for half a decade. They play 30 to 40 gigs a year and have now made three albums. They are Billy Harper (tenor saxophone), Craig Handy (alto saxophone), Eddie Henderson (trumpet), George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). David Weiss, who conceived, organized and administers this project, also plays trumpet and handles most of the arrangements.

These are major players who have not quite become household names. Perhaps that is why, for all their solo firepower, there is a selflessness in their dedication to the ensemble cause. Most of the tunes are composed by Harper, Cables or McBee and were first recorded 20 to 40 years ago. The first two albums contained their strongest songs, but the pieces on Believe are interesting because they are more open and the execution is edgier. Harper’s “Believe, For It Is True” is portentous. The start-and-stop tension is released when its composer blasts in for a raw, caterwauling solo. McBee’s asymmetrical “Tight Squeeze” provokes jagged responses from Harper, Weiss and Hart. Even a cooler, more lyrical piece like Cables’ “But He Knows” inspires a hot, fierce reaction from Handy.

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