Jim Cooper

Vibraphonist Joins Big Band

Hearld Palladium, St. Joseph, MI


Vibraphonist joins Big Band for St. Joe show


Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2015 6:00 am

By JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO - Sight & Sound Editor | 0 comments

ST. JOSEPH - Trumpet player Steven Reed wanted to invite vibraphonist Jim Cooper to sit in with his Lake Effect Jazz Big Band, there was just one problem - finding a repertoire that worked for both of them.

"I called Jim up and asked if he would be interested," Reed says. "He was but he had never played with a big band before. That's when we started talking about this Milt Jackson album I have at the house, and that's when we started putting it together."

That album is "Explosive: Milt Jackson Meets The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra," which features the vibraphonist front and center in a big band setting. When Cooper joins the Lake Effect Jazz Big Band on Saturday at the Box Factory for the Arts, he will be sitting front and center playing three of those Milt Jackson tunes and a whole lot more.

"The big band and vibraphone combination is kind of a rare thing and I'm glad we are keeping the tradition," Cooper says by phone from his home in Fennville. "Vibes can get swallowed up by a big band, but when you put them out front and feature them, it's really a great sound."

Cooper, who was born and raised in Chicago, started with drums and piano. He was exposed to mallet instruments such as the xylophone, marimba and vibraphone seeing concerts that featured Gary Burton and Jackson, and bought his first set of vibes during his junior year at Michigan State University.

Cooper played in the Billy Band, led by the late Billy Brimfield and Billy Perry and played his first big gig at the 1980 Chicago Jazz Festival.

Later, he teamed up with pianist/composer Bob Dogan, fresh off the road with the Buddy Rich band. The Jim Cooper/Bob Dogan Quintet became a mainstay in the Chicago jazz scene throughout the 1980s and early '90s. After meeting multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, Cooper recorded two CDs on Delmark - "Tough Town" (1990) and "Nutville" (1991).

In 2005, he released "Itchin' To Groove" on his own Jazmyn Records, and The Cooper, Hay, Van Lente Group, which he led from 2007-11 released "Trio Musik" (2010). Delmark also re-released "Nutville" in 2010. His latest release is "Chi-Town Sessions," a straight-ahead jazz recording that features original compositions by Cooper, and others. One of those tunes, "Daytura," will be performed on Saturday.

"I got the title from the flower, which blooms at night and is very fragrant," Cooper says. "It kind of reminds me of a jazz musician, actually. I'm really excited about playing it in a combo format."

Cooper also will join the big band on three tunes off of "Explosive" - "Bag's Groove," a Jackson original; "Since I Fell For You," the standard by Woodrow Buddy Johnson; and "The Nearness Of You," written by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington.

"They are amazing charts," Reed says. "They were arranged by John Clayton, who is the bass player in this Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. They are beautiful and bluesy and hot arrangements that feature the vibes."

In addition to Reed, the band includes saxophonists Andrea Gentry, Anne Jensen, Tim King, Christopher Keech, Jeff Bopp and Rob Funk; trombonists Cheryl Thomas, Carl Steffens, Mary Lynn Edwards, Tom Farrand and Brad Jensen; and trumpet players Steve Bizoe, Kevin Renfro, Sara Bopp and Tom Crowner. The rhythm section is keyboardist Kim McCavit, guitarist Dustin Lowe, bass player Doug Wegscheid, and percussionists Joe Trojan and Chuck Hartzell.

While Cooper will sit in during the second half of the concert, the first half of the program features a best-of program culled from pieces performed throughout Lake Effect Jazz's summer season.

Vocalist Michelle DeFrancesco Bythrow joins the band for Michael Bublé's "Sway," Natalie Cole's arrangement of "L-O-V-E," and Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin's "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square."

"We'll also be doing tunes of Pat Matheney and a couple of Buddy Rich charts," Reed says. "We normally do outdoor concerts, but we're setting the Box Factory up like a jazz club. We don't have any jazz clubs here any more. It's cool to be able to play an indoor jazz concert especially with someone like Jim Cooper. We're excited about it."

Contact: jbonfiglio@TheHP.com, 932-0364, Twitter: @HPBonfiglio

If you go

What: Lake Effect Jazz Big Band featuring guest vibraphonist Jim Cooper

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Box Factory for the Arts, 1101 Broad St., St. Joseph

How much: $10, $8 for students and seniors, free for children 12 and younger

Contact: 983-3688 or www.boxfactoryforthearts.org

Artist info: www.lakeeffectjazz.org; www.jimcooper.net