Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra- Arranged by Jack Cooper
(Planet Arts 101420. CD Review by Frank Griffith)
Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra? Hmmm,..it certainly sounds an interesting idea,…. The big bands of Ellington, Kenton, Herman and Thornhill all visited the themes of Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Rimsky-Korsakov. In addition, Gil Evans adapted everything from DeFalla, Rodrigo to Gershwin for Miles, as well as Oliver Nelson arranging an entire LP of Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf for organist, Jimmy Smith and big band – of all things. Nothing new in principle, but arranger and bandleader Jack Cooper‘s treatments of Charles Ives art songs are unique in this canon as they convert so well to instrumental vehicles for improvisation and cohesive ensemble fare.
From the time that he was a child in California, listening to his mother, a pianist accompanying singers performing Ives vocal works, Jack Cooper , now in his early fifties, has been fascinated by this repertoire. He went on to performing Ives at music school. He then studied with the legendary arranger, Manny Albam in NYC who was very encouraging in Jack’s pursuit of the Ives jazz orchestra project.
Recorded by a A-List NYC band which includes many stalwarts of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra like saxists, Billy Drewes, trumpeters, Nick Marchione and Scott Wendholt, trombonists, John Mosca, Doug Purviance and Luis Bonilla who also produced the date. Cooper has effectively woven these early 20th Century Ivesian themes in very contemporary sounding excursions of creativity. Top solos abound from the likes of Billy Drewes and Ivan Renta on saxophone, trumpeter Jim Seeley, pianist, Randy Ingram as well as veteran VJO lead trombonist, John Mosca.
Arnold Schoenberg wrote the following in a note discovered posthumously: “There is a man living in this country- a composer. He has solved the problem of how to preserve one’s self and to learn- his name is Ives”
I would also add that there is another man, who grew up just a few miles to the east of where Schoenberg made his home in California, who continues to learn and solve the unanswered question and his name is Cooper. Well done, Jack, as “Mists” will attest.