BIO and REVIEWS
Vibist, pianist, composer and teacher Jim Cooper has been playing vibraphone for over 45 years, leading numerous groups and appearing as both soloist and sideman. He has performed with jazz artists Frank Wess, Milt Hinton, Marcus Belgrave, Ira Sullivan, Buddy de Franco, Michigan clarinetist Dave Bennett and Jon Faddis and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble as well as many musicians from Chicago and west and northern Michigan.
Jim has appeared at many clubs, concerts and festivals including The Chicago Jazz Festival, Sutton’s Bay Jazz Festival, Lansing Jazz Festival, Sedona Jazz on the Rocks, Grand Rapids Jazz Festival, The South Haven Jazz Festival, Paradise Valley Jazz Party (AZ), Chicago’s Millennium Park, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Chicago’s Green Mill, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, the Cleveland's Bop Stop and venues in Phoenix, San Francisco and Denver. He has also been the featured entertainment for many years at Holland Hospital's Culinary Cabaret fundraiser in Michigan.
As a Delmark recording artist in the early 90s, he released two CDs with jazz legend Ira Sullivan, Tough Town and Nutville. His other CDs include Itchin' to Groove, Trio Musik Chi-Town Sessions and his latest, Make Someone Happy, which features an outstanding Chicago quartet with multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan. As a sideman, he has performed with many artist in Chicago and Michigan.
Jim’s awards include a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a WYCE-FM Jammie Award, ArtPrize's 2015 "Best Jazz Composition Award" for his song, “Third Circle.” His song, “Mallethead” was included in the 2019 book, The City Was Yellow, Chicago Jazz and Improvised Music 1980-2010.
As an educator, Jim has taught for the Jazz Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University. Since 2001, he has been a regular summer instructor at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and an adjunct professor at Lake Michigan College, teaching various courses including the History of Rock Music, Music Appreciation, Song Writing and World Music as well as various jazz performance courses. Jim has given clinics in jazz vibes and improvisation in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona and currently endorses Musser vibes and Mike Balter mallets.
“. . . the more you listen, the more you appreciate the quiet but marked strength of Cooper’s style . . . he impresses with his stylistic range and the harmonically assured manner in which he draws his fellow players together.”
“Cooper is not just a strong soloist but an accomplished band-leader as well, he played with a degree of subtlety and craft one does not often encounter in the work of performers far better known than he.”
“. . . he’s no kid, judging by his mature lines . . . a warm vibist who goes for the heart.”
“There seems no limit to the range of Cooper’s moods and themes: he delves deeply into each tune, from bop to bossa....he maintains openness through his warm, unfettered lines.”
Cleveland (OH) Jazz Report
“. . . nothing tricky, nothing overly glossy, and nothing so sophisticated that it’s lost touch with the streets.”
“...your vibes are warm and true, the McCoy!”
“Cooper gave the evening the sort of depth of modern jazz knowledge you’d expect from a Chicagoan.”....masterful vibraphone playing..."
Grand Rapids Press
“When the mallets are in the hands of the exceptionally talented Jim Cooper, it’s an extraordinary and inspired performance vs. the mere ordinary!
Grand Rapids Jazz Society Newsletter
"Jim is the real deal, he's been there, done that and has been woefully under-recorded during his long career."
International Association of Jazz Record Collectors
"An imaginative improviser, Cooper delivered quicksilver solos and propulsive rhythms..."
AZ Music Scene
“...a very good player of standards and originals...deserving wider recognition."
All Music Guide
"Cooper never missed a note, the man is as smooth on the vibraphone as a baby's hand in the breeze."
Burlington (IA) Hawkeye