Junior’s Cookin’: JUNIOR COOK Quintet
Junior Cook (ts) Blue Mitchell (tp) Ron Matthews (p) or Dolo Coker (p) (on Side 2, #1-3) Gene Taylor (b) Roy Brooks (drs)
Side 2, #1-3 recorded in Long Beach, California; April 10, 1961;
other selections in New York; December 4, 1961
Mzar (7:12) (Roland Alexander)
Turbo (5:43) (Charles Davis)
Easy Living (6:11) (Robin and Rainger)
Blue Farouq (3:58) (Blue Mitchell)
Sweet Cakes (5:26) (Blue Mitchell)
Field Day (3:55) (Dolo Coker)
Pleasure Bent (6:26) (Roland Alexander)
Time was when a sideman would have to toil with a band (or bands) for along time before he would be recognized, let alone give his own record date. That was in the days when there were: (A) more big bands; (B) less small groups; (C) less record companies or less jazz records. During the last decade, as (A) decreased while (B) and (C) increased, the sideman became more prominent. It became common practice for a sideman to record as a leader after having been with a group for a short time. There have been cases where a sideman did more albums than this regular group leader in the course of a year.
JUNIOR COOK’s pattern has been the complete opposite of this. Although he has been the featured tenorman with the Horace Silver quintet since 1958, has recorded at length with him on four occasions and has done a couple of sideman albums with Kenny Burrell, Cook had never made a date of his own until this one.
Junior is from Pensacola, Florida, where he was born in July of 1934. His is musical family, with both his father and older brother playing trumpet. He started on alto saxophone in high school, switching to tenor later on. Another Pensacola native, Gigi Gryce, gave him encouragement early in his career.
It was while he was working in a rock ‘n roll show at the Howard Theatre in Washington that he first me Horace Silver. Silver was working in Baltimore and on his off-night had come over to Washington to hear Lou Donaldson who was playing in a nightclub there. Junior and Horace sat in with Lou an Cook’s playing was a happy surprise to the pianist. When Clifford Jordan had to take a short leave of absence from the Silver group, Cook filled in for a week. Then from June to December 1957, he worked with the combo of bassist Gloria Bell. Two months in 1958 were spent with Dizzy Gillespie and in May of that year, Junior joined his present leader. His first recorded solos with Silver prompted John Tuna to write in Down Beat that Cook “shows himself to be an intense, thoughtful and constructive soloist, not in a hurry to say his piece and making his contributions mean something.”
This has held true. Junior does not run around in a welter of excess notes but pays attention to structure and communication of honest emotion. He has named Wardell Gray, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt as early favorites. There is no doubt that he is also fond of John Coltrane, Frank Foster and Hank Mobley. But instead of imitating any or all of these players, he stands up to be counted as one of today’s tenormen in a general stylistic area, but with his own way of interpreting the similar harmonic and melodic material of this genre.
In this set, recorded in two sessions (one on each coast), Junior has the company of all his mates from the Silver quintet, except his boss. The absence of Horace and his tunes gives the group another kind of flavor, but their long experience together guarantees an equally “down” fivesome.
BLUE MITCHELL has developed into one of our brightest and most individual stylists, one who has had a definite, if almost unnoticed, influence on his fellow trumpeters. Gene Taylor is a power plant on bass while Roy Brooks is as dynamic a young drummer as there is today.
For the West Coast session, recorded during a Spring trip to California by the Silver band, Junior enlisted pianist Dolo Coker, a transplanted Easterner from Washington, D. c. who also had done some playing around Philadelphia in the ‘50s. Coker is a light-touched and lyrical swinger with a leaning toward Red Garland.
The East Coast session, made later in ’61 back at their New York “home base,” finds Ronnie Matthews at the piano bench, a place he usually occupies when Cook, Mitchell, Taylor and Brooks are playing on a Monday night at Birdland. Ronnie is a Brooklyn boy who began in the ‘50s by idolizing Silver but who, by 1961, had moved into expressions of his own.
Three of the tunes have been recorded on the Riverside-Jazzland circuit before. Mitchell’s Blue Farouq was done by Charlie Rouse in “Taking Care of Business” (Jazzland 19) and his Sweet Cakes was part of one of his own Riverside albums. Coker’s Field Day was first heard in “The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon” (Jazzland 29) with composer Dolo at the piano. These tracks comprise the California date. The four taped in New York are Mzar and Pleasure Bent, two lines by tenor saxophonist Roland Alexander; baritone saxophonist Charles Davis’ Turbo, named after a Brooklyn jazz club; and Easy Living, the old standard associated with Billie Holiday.
Mzar and Sweet Cakes are the minor-key numbers; the former is cast in a Middle Eastern mold with Cook’s tenor sound echoing the mood; the latter is a mellower minor but no less convincing.
The blithe, sunny Pleasure Bent and the fun-and-games Field Day are the happy numbers, balancing those minors at the other end of the pole. Centrally located is the only ballad, Easy Living, which features Cook all the way. Junior acknowledges Wardell Gray here, especially in the first chorus. Those who remember Gray’s version will recognize a similarity in attitude.
As the title of the album points up, there are many possible and valid puns to be made on Junior’s last name. With the cookin’ being done on such an artistic plane, he may have to change his family name to Chef.
New York recording:
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios
Produced by RUSSELL JACQUET
Recorded at Gold Star Studios
Mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 958) and Monaural (JLP58) form
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produce by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York