Park Slope highlights from the 2001 Central Brooklyn Jazz fest

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Everyone has been raving about the second annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival, with audience members visiting from as far away as Poland, announced festival spokeswoman Torrie McCartney Wednesday.

Reviews of two of the Park Slope performances follow.

Night of the Cookers Reunion
Up Over Jazz Cafe, 351 Fulton St. at Seventh Avenue
April 7, 2001

In April of 1965, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard assembled a group of talented young musicians to record a live album for Blue Note records at the La Marchal Supper Club on Nostrand Avenue at President Street in Crown Heights.

The album was released under the title "The Night of the Cookers," and has since become a hard-bop classic. As part of the second annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival, the Up Over Jazz Cafe hosted a two-night reunion featuring original members of the legendary Cookers band; and even though 36 years have passed since that night, those guys can still cook.

Although the night wasn’t the all-out blowout that can be found on the original album, the Cookers Reunion band - which featured James Spaulding and Craig Handy on saxophone, Virgil Jones and David Weiss on trumpet, Kiane Zawadi on trombone, Ronnie Matthews on piano, Larry Ridley on bass, and Pete "La Roca" Sims on drums, (Hubbard canceled, citing health reasons) - performed classic tunes from the Hubbard songbook with very pleasing results.

Veteran Spaulding and the "Young Lion" Handy, both tore up the stage with powerfully emotional and explosive solos on smokers like "Outer Forces" and "Bob’s Place" (dedicated to Robert Myers of the Up Over Jazz Cafe).

Brooklyn legend Matthews dazzled everyone with his imaginative phrasing and light touch, while the rhythm section of Ridley and Sims was rock solid, although perhaps a little lost in the mix compared to the horns.

All in all, it was a great night for jazz in Brooklyn. Hopefully, these amazingly talented jazzmen won’t wait another 36 years to have their next reunion.

Billy Harper Quintet
Up Over Jazz Cafe
April 13, 2001

Although jazz was conceived and birthed in America from the marriage of African and European music traditions, this unique and important art form is mostly under-appreciated in this country, as are the artists that create it. Many American jazz musicians have achieved acceptance, popularity and success in Europe and Asia while remaining relatively unknown in the United States.

Saxophonist Billy Harper is one such artist, having recorded almost 20 albums in the last 30 years, only two or three of which are available domestically.

As part of the second annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival, Billy brought his quintet (which features Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Francesca Tankley on piano, Clarence Seay on bass and Newman Taylor-Baker on drums) to the Up Over Jazz Cafe. Those in attendance had the rare opportunity to appreciate firsthand an artist at work.

Harper took the stage in a black leather poncho, invoking the image of both Pope John Paul and John Shaft. His music is a similar mix of spirituality and raw energy, reminiscent of late-era Coltrane.

The hymn-like "If One Could Only See," featuring guest vocalist Judy Bady, found Harper in a quiet and reflective mood, while the Asian-tinged "Soran Bushi BH" was filled with urgency, intensity and passion.

Harper’s sound and ideas were the clear focus of the evening, with the rest of the group providing the pulpit for his sermon. That being said, pianist Tankley greatly enhanced the overall performance with her percussive style and tonal chording.

Grand finale

The closing event of the second annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival takes place at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church [265 Decatur St., (718) 778-8700] on April 28. Both the Torrie McCartney Quintet and the Drake Colley Quartet will perform.

Vocalist McCartney, who will be performing original songs off of her upcoming album "Torrie McCartney," will be accompanied by renowned bassist Bob Cunningham. Admission to the performance, which begins at 3 pm, is $20.

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