Meet the Music Makers: The Cookers

In conversation with Cookers members David Weiss, trumpet and George Cables, piano:

UChicago Presents: What is The Cookers’ “origin story”?

David Weiss: I think it goes back as far as 2002 or 2003 or so. There was a jazz club and Brooklyn called the Up Over Jazz Café, who had seen the original Night of the Cookers concert with Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan when he was a kid, and I guess he remained obsessed with that record all his life. He invited me to do a Night of the Cookers tribute concert for Freddie Hubbard’s birthday one year, and want to get all the guys from the original recording that are still around to play on it. So I got Pete La Roca and James Spaulding, who are on the original recording, and a few more of the guys that played with Freddie in the 60’s, and we did a weekend at this club.

Long story short it was a great show, so we decided to keep the band going. We played a few festivals and a few other clubs around New York. Maybe a year or two later, I was playing in Charles Tolliver’s big band with Billy Harper and Cecil McBee, and I decided to bring them on board. Around 2007 we were invited to do the Healdsburg Festival in the California, and the organizer tried to have George Cables and Billy Hart and Craig Handy there almost every year in some capacity, so when she caught wind of this band, she asked us to play. On that concert we played George, Cecil, and Billy Harper’s music, and everything clicked. That was in 2007, and we've been going strong since. The only change we made was in 2013, and that was when Donald Harrison came in for Craig Handy.

UCP: You both stay busy playing in a bunch of different bands. What do you feel that you get out of playing with The Cookers that you don't with these other groups?

George Cables: The Cookers have a bunch of members, with the four horns. Most of my career I've played I've been a “sideman” with other horn players or instrumentalists, and I enjoy that role. I'm just really happy to be a part of the music. I always felt like I was really blessed to be in the room and at the piano too, so I can be a part of the music and give it direction and learn from it. As far as being in The Cookers, it’s a band that's like no other that I’m working with right now. There’s a high energy, man; I like to play with energy and intensity, and this band does that without a doubt. And playing with in a rhythm section with guys like Billy Hart and Cecil McBee, I'm always reminded about how to try and let myself go and how to be free and how to explore more and how to play with each other and play with some abandon. Everybody in the band has something to give, and so much to give.