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Statements by Michael Cooke

Statements is a collection of original pieces on a variety of saxes, winds and percussion by bay area multi-instrumentalist Michael Cooke. Some of them are solo performances in the strict sense, while most are multi-tracked conversations by Cooke with himself, a la Bill Evans. The thematic material for Cooke's compositions, according to his liner notes, are drawn from his own life experience, and the aforementioned notes also document the musical influences behind the approach taken on each track. But you don't always need a scorecard to tell who the players are; there's no mistaking the influence of Roland Kirk when Cooke attacks the flute, for example, and how can the sound of sleigh bells and the singing bowl fail to put you in the mind of later John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders?

The twelve tracks on the CD proper (the CD is enhanced to provide various additional musical & visual information when played on a computer) paint a portrait of an ambitious young musician probing the depths of avant-garde jazz and displaying the treasures he has found. Some, like the album closing "Early Exit," are full to the brim with this ambition, mixing dozens of instruments into a Ayler-esque dirges that gives way to a harmonically complex, post bop theme that might have been written by Charles Mingus or a young Archie Shepp. Others, though, are more straightforward, such as "Viva Guatemala!" with it's pleasing, almost childlike bass clarinet line topped by a gritty flute solo. And don't think that Michael Cooke is some humorless academic--dig the "Close Encounters" quote in "Neptune," his tribute to Interstellar Space era Coltrane.

This independent release from 2001 might helpfully be compared to a major label counterpart from the same year, Chris Potter's Gratitude. Both CDs find young & talented artists openly assimilating and re-synthesizing the voices of great saxophonists past, though each would do well and take a page from the other and broaden the range of their influences--it wouldn't hurt Cooke to pay more attention to Lester Young and Ben Webster, just as Potter would surely profit from more exposure to, say, Anthony Braxton and Albert Ayler.

Michael Cooke definitely has a lot to say and the multifarious talents to make you listen. If this CD doesn't get your attention, you are probably deaf. Though it may be said that Cooke is still search for his own voice, Statements amply demonstrates that he is looking for it in the right places.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Michael Cooke
  • CD Title: Statements
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Black Hat Records
  • Rating: Three Stars
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