The Cookers

Cast the First Stone

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The second album by all-star hard bop group the Cookers (named for a legendary Freddie Hubbard live album) is a somewhat more focused, and very slightly more relaxed, effort than the band's debut, 2010's Warriors. Where that album was sharply split between hard-grooving blowouts and simmering ballads, Cast the First Stone is more or less midtempo throughout, allowing the bandmembers to display their command of swing and the blues while still soloing fiercely. With the exception of trumpeter David Weiss, who organized the whole project, the bandmembers all came of age professionally in the 1960s and '70s, with credits on scores of highly regarded albums. Trumpeter Eddie Henderson has many releases as a leader, and was a member of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band, as was drummer Billy Hart. Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper played with Lee Morgan; Cecil McBee's discography includes work with Alice Coltrane, Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter, and many others; pianist George Cables has been around for decades; and saxophonist Craig Handy is a member of the Mingus Big Band, and a frequent collaborator with Weiss on other projects. Everyone here solos brilliantly, but never at the expense of the song as a whole. Each man steps into the spotlight with grace and subtlety, even when the saxophonists get gritty and raw, as they frequently do. This music isn't so much rooted in the mid-'60s Blue Note aesthetic as the acoustic jazz that those players made later, in the '70s and even into the Young Lions era of the '80s, when less attention was being paid to jazz but when the music's core values were being firmly reasserted. The Cookers isn't so much a repertory band or a nostalgia act but instead is a way of saying, "Here's what you've been missing out on all along."

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