Night of the Cookers Revisited
Sunday, October 26th, 2008
Jazz fans LOVE to reminisce. I mean, telling someone that "Yeah, I remember catching Hank Mobley at the Coronet Club in Brooklyn in the early 70's-man, he was cookin!" The unspoken implication being, of course, that I saw him?and you didn't! And the music was so much hipper then, wasn't it? Well, yes...and no.

That is, although the days of Miles, Mingus, Monk and Trane are gone forever - the days when "giants walked the earth?, as one critic wrote, the joys of discovering musicians who continue to struggle with, enrich and ultimately master the jazz canon are very much alive and well. There was evidence enough to support this idea at the latest of the "Sunday Serenade" concert series, a Very Truly Yours event. The BassLine in Mount Vernon was again the place to be on an unusually warm late October day. The temperature inside was hotter than expected too - although anyone familiar with the young trumpeters Kenyatta Beasley and Bruce Harris would not have been surprised.

Besides their work on the horns, Dezron Douglas (bass) and Chuck McPherson (drums) added their plentiful chops, with "Serenade" regular Patience Higgins again tossing his seasoned horns into the mix. Pianist Marcus Persiani once more would bring his fleet-fingered approach to the piano. The October 26th afternoon concert was dubbed "Night of the Cookers Revisited", acknowledging the classic Blue Note release from 1965. That one starred Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard - this one had big shoes to fill. When they led off the day with "Jodo", an up-tempo number from that same session you knew the challenge had been accepted.

Higgins opened up with a workman-like tenor sax solo, one that set the stage for the trumpets to show off the study in contrasting styles that would be in evidence throughout the day. Bruce Harris played a solo that nodded towards Hubbard, with echoes of Brownie, as being a major influence. Bright and brassy, his horn told a story as he built his solo in layers, or perhaps chapters. Tall and lanky, his measured, thinking man's approach to the horn was followed by Kenyatta Beasley, stocky and shorter in stature, but not in talent. His style is much more physical in nature: he "threw" himself into his solo, a rapid-fire approach that owed as much to Lee Morgan as it did Woody Shaw, with a boisterous outlook all his own.

Another Hubbard tune, ?Birdlike", came next. Patience Higgins had a strong effort on soprano that took him into the upper range of the instrument. He fought with the horn initially (it wasn't going to come along willingly), coaxing it into a Coltrane-like fervor before handing things over to Bruce Harris. Listening hard, Bruce echoed Higgins last phrase to begin his own trumpet solo, which was a triumph of hard bop swing-his lyricism had a touch of Fats Navarro without mimicking that master. Marcus Persiani was a pleasure to watch as he came up with fat chords and hip fills to challenge his fellow band members. This is a cat I want to hear on a grand piano - and soon! A long series of 'fours' took the song out: Harris, showing a brassy tone both deliberate and thoughtful, played as if he were taking the listener across uncharted lands, determined to get us to our destination intact and happier for it. Beasley, bold and bright, used dynamics to build his solo. He was the grizzled captain who wouldn't stop smiling as he took us out. He knew that we were lost, but also knew that getting there was half the fun!

Other highlights included the killer arrangement of "Pensativa", with Patience Higgins taking one of his best solos of the day, this time on tenor. Harris used a mute to lovely advantage on this tune, while Kenyatta Beasley showed he is as comfortable on flugelhorn as trumpet. The strongest ensemble work of all was on Lee Morgan's "Ceora", and with the great, ?big ears' playing of Chuck McPherson on the hard bop classic "The Eternal Triangle". He was to play with his dad, Charles, at NYC's Jazz Standard later than night. Those listeners would be in for quite a show based on what we saw during the "Sunday Serenade"!

So, the next time friends start to tell you, ?They just don't play like that anymore?", ask them if they've gotten around to hearing either Bruce Harris or Kenyatta Beasley, just to name two of the up and coming musicians playing at The BassLine that last Sunday in October.

There's a new and extremely talented crop of jazz musicians eager to give them something new to hear and-perhaps, one day, reminisce about.
- Charlie Davis
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