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Chamber Wind Music Of Jack Cooper

Memphis Brass Quintet
Release Date: 05/25/2010 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3027  
Composer:  Jack Cooper
Performer:  Luis BonillaChris ParkerPaul HaarCedric Mauyfield,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Memphis Brass Quintet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

J. COOPER Trombone Sonata. 1 Saxophone Sonata. 2 Clarinet Sonata 3. 5 Scenes for Brass Quintet 4. One of the Missing 5 1 Luis Bonilla (tbn); 2 Paul Haar (asax); 3 Cedric Mayfield (cl); Read more 5 John Mueller (eup); 1,2,3 Chris Parker, 5 Oksana Poleshook (pn); 1,3 Pablo Bilbraut (perc); 2 Michael Waldrop (dr); 4 Memphis Br Qnt CENTAUR 3027 (63:30)

The title on the CD is Chamber Wind Music of Jack Cooper . One look at the list of performers in the headnote will suggest to the alert reader that this is not a standard sort of chamber-music recital. In fact, Pablo Bilbraut plays Latin percussion— Fanfare guidelines provide no instrumental abbreviation for “Latin”—which should make the difference even clearer. What Jack Cooper has assembled here are jazz charts organized into classical forms. If you consider a jazz trio anathema, you may wish to move on. If you are open to an engaging idea well executed, read on.

Cooper, an associate professor of jazz studies at the University of Memphis, has a wide range of experience as performer, composer, and arranger. He has appeared with a who’s-who of big-name popular performers in various genres, and has performed with and written for a large number of famous jazz artists. As listed on his Web site, memphis.edu/music/cooper.php, there are many jazz ensembles and a few classical ensembles for which he has written or arranged. He has a foot in both camps, but jazz predominates in his experience, as it does in these works.

Three sonatas are the core of this release, works written between 1998 and 2000 that use the standard three-movement sonata form, with solo instrument—trombone, saxophone, and clarinet—and piano. Cooper adds a percussionist, creating a kind of jazz trio. Each work uses the fast-slow-fast formula with what sounds to be fully composed openings, followed by improvisatory development. Some seem to come back to the opening thematic material; others very obviously use an engineered fade-out to end. To the extent that there is a classical element, it is to be found in the piano part. The music itself sounds, to one without an exhaustive background in jazz, attractive and well done, but fairly conservative, music that would not have raised many eyebrows in a 1960s jazz club.

The Five Scenes for Brass Quintet (2002) is rather different. The range of music is broader, from the edgy brilliance of the Fanfare, to the densely dissonant “Somberly,” the formality of the Fugue, the almost random “Shapes, Form, Shadows,” and the more conventional Afro-Latin finale. It uses dissonances that I have rarely heard in jazz, yet retains the feeling of jazz in an ensemble not often used in that repertoire. It was written to show off the talents of the Memphis Brass Quintet, which it does nicely.

The last work on the disc, and the most recent, the 2008 One of the Missing (for those lost in Iraq) , is a short, deeply felt lament for euphonium and piano, slightly bluesy in tone. The title comes from an Ambrose Bierce story. The sentiment is the same: a distaste for war. It was commissioned by the soloist, who well conveys its dark pessimism.

One can only assume, given the fact that this was published as a classical release, that the purpose of this program is to broaden the stylistic range of concert chamber music; a breaking-down of barriers, as it is often put. Whether that will make inroads with more traditional audiences and ensembles remains to be seen. That need not concern the potential buyer, in any case. Collectors wishing to savor jazz served in classical mugs will find this an interesting release.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Trombone by Jack Cooper
Performer:  Luis Bonilla (Trombone), Chris Parker (Piano)
Sonata for Saxophone by Jack Cooper
Performer:  Paul Haar (Alto Saxophone), Chris Parker (Piano)
Five Scenes for Brass Quintet by Jack Cooper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Memphis Brass Quintet
Sonata for Clarinet by Jack Cooper
Performer:  Cedric Mauyfield (Clarinet)
One of the Missing - For those lost in Iraq by Jack Cooper
Performer:  John Mueller (Euphonium), Oksana Poleshook (Piano)

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