Recently, I decided to reprint my first solo jazz CD. My daughter Skye, redid the layout and packaging giving it a much needed fresh look. I also came across a Wisconsin State Journal review of that CD. Lots have changed since then as 2003 was a lifetime ago, but I am still humbled by Kevin Lynch’s kind words.
Wisconsin State Journal :: RHYTHM :: 19
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Trumpeter David Cooper will infiltrate a traditionally classical music series in a concert this weekend, which is a sign of change but also of Cooper being fully himself. A few years back he proved his mettle in classical circles with fine recordings of his own transcriptions of the magisterial Unaccompanied Suites for Cello by J.S. Bach.
His superb new CD “Petite Monde” is all about Cooper’s evolution as a jazz trumpeter and composer. The CD material will be the focus of his performance in the “Cool Sounds in a Hot Spot” series at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive. Tickets are $10 (233-9774).
Cooper will perform with his wife, singer Kelly DeHaven, and their jazz quintet, which includes pianist Vince Fuh, tenor saxophonist Woody Mankowski, bassist Jeff Eckels and drummer John Becker.
It’s the first time a jazz group has played in the series, which until last summer had been know as Summer Evenings of Music.
That’s not to say there’s no element of classical music in this recording, which includes an original suite called “Concerto for Bartok.”
More to the point, the recording demonstrates how modern jazz has affinities to 20th century masters like Bela Bartok and Maurice Ravel, who was a partial influence in the CD’s title tune, along with Wynton Marsalis and Duke Ellington.
The title tune “Petite Monde” suggests the range of Cooper’s ambition, but it comes off as unassuming and artfully poised. The declamatory, rhythmically nuanced opening theme updates the Jazz Messengers style, and Cooper bursts into his solo with the sort of fluent bravura expected of great Messenger trumpeters like Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Marsalis. Saxophonist Woody Mankowski picks up the swing and blows it cool. Then comes the surprising but pivotal unaccompanied piano solo by Vince Fuh, which recalls Ellington’s underappreciated, limpid solo work. It dissembles into a bit of Ravelesque sonics before slowly building momentum to an explosive release to the theme restatement.
Among the CD’s fine contrasting elements is the ensuing vocal tune, “The Last One.” DeHaven sings a sinuously dancing theme with thoughtful lyrics about soulmates finding each other. Cooper’s fine tone warms and mellows here.
“Turnaround Norman,” also with DeHaven, has a nice, lazy swing and a refrain that recalls jazzy pop musician Joe Jackson.
The album’s contrasts are never jarring. “Concerto for Bartok” is seamlessly episodic and dips into some modern music tonalities and Bartok-ish Hungarian folk music strains, with lyrics that play off of Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy and even a bit of James Joyce.
But Cooper’s virtuoso trumpet playing carries the music. His solos and themes typically swing with lyrical, clearly wrought ideas that are often ingenious but never overly clever. His personal expressivity seems to breathe in confiding tones and sometimes bleed, but he never gushes or shows off. Best of all, he has a tone that you can bathe yourself in. Cooper’s musical range and mastery bring to mind Tom Harrell, one of the most well-rounded jazz trumpeter-composers in jazz.
Cooper’s three overt tributes to great jazz masters include a tender take on Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby My Dear” with deliciously smeared notes and two versions — muted and open horn — of an original he calls “Miles’ Tone,” which does justice to Miles Davis’ uncanny horn voice.
This is the CD we’ve been waiting for from Cooper. He may be the Midwest’s finest trumpeter. Though comparatively unknown, Cooper could stand up and hold his own with Marsalis, Harrell, Dave Douglas and Wallace Roney.
He’s firmly grounded in the modern jazz tradition, with all the tools and talent to grow and add his plot to that great, fertile expanse. The good news is that Cooper and DeHaven have returned to the Madison area, after relocating to La Crosse for a few years. They plan to build a home in Mount Horeb.