Jim Cooper


In January of 2016, Jim Cooper celebrated his 65th birthday at the legendary Jazz Showcase in Chicago. Forty-five of those years he’s played the vibraphone, performing both as a leader and sideman around the country as well as overseas. Throughout his performing career, Jim has performed with such outstanding musicians as Art Van Damme, Barrett Deems, Ira Sullivan, Buddy DeFranco and Jon Faddis among others. He has performed in Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, New York City, Detroit and Phoenix, Arizona with the AZ Music Scene Magazine calling Cooper, "An imaginative improviser delivering quicksilver solos and propulsive rhythms.”

He was a winner of the 2015 ArtPrize Critic’s Choice Award for his original song, Third Circle. Other awards include a WYCE-FM Jammie Award in 2014 for his work on Jim Alfredson’s CD, Dirty Fingers, A Tribute to Big John Patton and in 2008, he was nominated for four Jammie awards for his CD, Trio Musik featuring The Cooper, Hay, Van Lente Group.

During the early 1990s, Cooper recorded with another Chicagoan, the legendary multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan. Their two Delmark CDs, Tough Town (1991) and Nutville (1992) received favorable reviews, with Jazz Times magazine calling Cooper, “a warm vibist who goes for the heart.”

Jim’s other recordings as a leader include Itchin’ To Groove (Jazmyn) and Chi-Town Sessions (Jazmyn). He has also been featured as a sideman on recordings by Michigan musicians Harry Goldson, Dave Bennett, Jeff Haas, Steve Talaga and Ken Morgan.

Growing up in Chicago exposed Jim to a wide variety of music. Starting on piano and drums as a youngster, he didn’t start playing the vibraphone seriously until he was a college student at Michigan State University. After one year at MSU, he brought his vibes back to Chicago and started practicing daily to get his chops together.

The 1980s was an especially fruitful time for Cooper, jamming with many outstanding Chicago jazz musicians, especially pianist/composer Bob Dogan, who became a musical mentor.  The Jim Cooper/Bob Dogan Quintet performed at many Chicago jazz clubs including The Green Mill, Andy’s, The Jazz Showcase and The Chicago Jazz Festival.  The No Exit Café in Roger’s Park became a training ground as well as for many folk and jazz musicians.

 As an educator, Jim’s teaching focuses on vibraphone technique, improvisation and combo performance. He has given workshops Arizona, Ohio, Illinois as well as Michigan, In 2017, Jim celebrated teaching 16 years at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.  He taught jazz vibraphone at Northwestern University from 2013 to 2015. Jim is a Musser Performing Artist sponsored by Conn/Selmer, endorses Mike Balter mallets, and is a featured clinician/adjudicator for high school and college jazz festivals. 

Jim is currently performing around the West Michigan area and teaching Jazz Piano and the History of Rock at Lake Michigan College.