Friday, April 23, 2010

Jim Cooper Reissue for Those of the Vibraphonic Persuasion

The vibes are a difficult instrument and perhaps playing them is a relatively unsung art. You get a sound with a particular hardness of mallets, you get a sound with the rotary motor on or off, you get a sound that is harder to vary than, say, a tenor sax. Establishing your own sound depends on many subtle factors--all those factors plus how you use the sustain bar, the manner of attack, multi-mallet techniques versus two-fisted percussiveness, and so on.

Jim Cooper, not necessarily a household name, has his own way. He absorbs the tradition from Bags to Hutcherson and then puts his own spin on it.

You can hear that to very good advantage on his 1991 album Nutville (Delmark) just re-released on CD. It brings together a crack team of hard boppers, the great Ira Sullivan on trumpet, soprano and tenor, the hiply swinging piano of Bob Dogan, and a very good rhythm section.

The art of evolved hard bop is well-advanced and Sullivan and Dogan sound really on top of it. Bob Cooper, though, is the man at the center. He plays with great rhythmic vitality, executing lines flawlessly with truly swinging, nuanced phrasing. And he often favors a more percussive, harder, less sustained sound than what you get with the Bag's bag.

Nutville fills a solid CD's worth of time with nicely turned blowing originals, plus tunes by Monk, Horace Silver and Dizzy. Whether in a Latin mode or just charging hard in a swinging enclave, Cooper and Company give you solid delight. Great to have this one available again!

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