Big boppers: The New Cookers bring the bop to Brooklyn Jazz Fest

Big boppers: The New Cookers bring the bop to Brooklyn Jazz Fest
They are cooking now: Kenyatta Beasley, left on trumpet, and Keith Loftis on saxophone, are members of the New Cookers, a hard bop jazz collective that will perform at the Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The New Cookers is steeped in the ghosts of jazz past.

The Brooklyn collective has spent the past several years reliving the late 1960s and early 1970s era of hard bop.

“We do a couple covers of newer tunes, but mostly, we stick to the old stuff,” said trumpet player and band leader Kenyatta Beasley, who teaches music at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus and also plays with artists such as Jay-Z and Matchbox 20.

The guys met at the now-defunct Up Over Cafe, where they spent many long nights jamming on old jazz heads written by legends such as Wayne Shorter, Art Blakely, and Lee Morgan.

Hard bop evolved from be bop in the 1960s as a form of faster, funkier jazz.

Beasley said the band is dedicated to making sure the genre of music is still played.

“It is important to keep hard bop alive because it is an extension of jazz and jazz is America’s art form,” said Beasley.

Brooklyn audiences will have a chance to see some hard bop live on stage on March 29, when the New Cookers plays a free show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The collective plans to play many old numbers, and will specifically focus on some songs from the Count Basie Orchestra, including “Shiny Stockings,” “Manhattan Fever,” and “Hip Shaking.”

The concert is part of the 15th annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival, which will see some 50 jazz bands and musicians play in venues across the borough from March 28 to April 30. The festival will also include jam sessions, panel discussions, and a one-night revival of Laurence Holder’s play about the life of jazz giant Thelonious Monk, “Monk,” starring Rome Neal and featuring music by Bill Lee — the father of Spike Lee.

The New Cookers at BAMcafe, BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. March 29 at 9 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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