Hard bop supreme is served up by the Cookers, a truly all-star ensemble that includes veterans who helped develop and shape the sound. In order to understand the scope of these musicians’ experience and magnitude it’s imperative to call out their names: bassist Cecil McBee (trumpeter Miles Davis, saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Wayne Shorter), trumpeter Eddie Henderson (lessons from Louis Armstrong, pianist Herbie Hancock), drummer Billy Hart (Davis, Hancock), tenor saxophonist Billy Harper (pianist Randy Weston, drummers Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Max Roach) and pianist George Cables (saxophonist Sonny Rollins and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard). Trumpeter David Weiss, the youngest member, came up with the idea of putting these hefty musicians together with little notion that nine years later they would remain a unit. With the release of The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart, which, like 2014’s Time and Time Again, includes the band’s newest member, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, the Cookers have put out five outstanding albums.
The name of the album—also the disc’s first cut—tells a lot about the music. Penned by Harper, it rhythmically opens ever so slowly and peacefully. Later it explodes with the wild excitement of Harper’s tenor.
It’s Harper’s pen at work again on the lovely ballad “If One Could Only See.” Cables’ gentle piano sets the soft mood with the purity of Henderson’s trumpet leading, as if singing, the tune. All of the original material is written by members of the Cookers, enabling each composer to bring that side of his musical personality to the project.
Diversity defines the spirit of The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart as it runs free while referencing musical touchstones from the past. The Cookers continue as master chiefs of the bandstand.