Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Jack Cooper Jazz Orchestra: Mists

Planet Arts
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Mists

I’ve discussed many jazz composers over the years, but none had a birth date going back to 1874 ... that is, until this music from Charles Ives. His father was a famed bandmaster in Danbury, Connecticut, who was known for his “radical” performance ideas. Young Charles learned to play the piano and organ but, more importantly, became a masterful composer and arranger. 

Although he grew up to become a wealthy businessman — he owned and ran an insurance company — his musical compositions made him famous. He won two Pulitzer Prizes during his lifetime.

Jack Cooper, born almost a century later, is one of the many modern musician/composers who’ve been highly influenced by Ives (Bob Brookmeyer is another). This album is the result of a project that Cooper began, intending to meld Ives compositions, along with relatively advanced tonal and rhythmic phrasing, with the styling and “feel” of modern big band jazz orchestras. 

He has succeeded masterfully.

Eight Ives compositions are featured on this release. Most probably won’t be familiar to the average jazz fan; one exception might be “At the River,” a tune usually associated with the country and gospel genres. It’s amazing, however, how modern and “familiar” all these songs sound, relative to the music we’ve long heard performed by swinging big band groups. 

Not to mention how great the instrumental solo passages sound, as they’re laid atop the melodic passages.

Ives must’ve been a time traveler, and Cooper a like-minded soul who has broken the code for this realm. You’ll be amazed at the results.

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