Culture Watch: The Cookers' 'Cast the First Stone' CD
(Plus Loin Music)
Primarily composed of jazz warhorses who backed '60s giants such as Lee Morgan, Herbie Hancock and Charles Lloyd, this hard-hitting septet wears its name like a mission statement. Inspired by the Blue Note live album series "Night of the Cookers," this taut, seven-song set carries the freely developing yet sympathetic interplay of a late-night jam session, offering plenty of room for each soloist to stretch.
Saxophonist Billy Harper sets the tone with the album-opening title track, which features a tough bit of soloing between an insistent melody, and fellow jazz veteran Azar Lawrence lends a graceful soprano saxophone to "Looking for the Light," one of several moments in which the group turns down the heat but maintains a steady boil. Rich with a mix of classic elegance and exploration, the group might reference the past by name, but it never sounds less than current.
-- Chris Barton