““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.” ” - Howard Reich
— Chicago Tribune
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 on stage with jazz artists Frank Wess, Milt Hinton, Bob Dogan, Marcus Belgrave, Ira Sullivan, Buddy de Franco, Jon Faddis and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble and and Joe Lovano. He has also toured the midwest with Michigan clarinetist Dave Bennett's, "Tribute to Benny Goodman" As a sideman, he has performed with many Chicago artists like Gene Esposito and Bob Dogan and some of Michigan's finest including Jeff Haas, Terry Lower, Rob Smith, Bill and Laurie Sears, Jerry McKenzie, Tad Weed and Paul Keller to name a few.
A native Chicagoan, he has appeared in many clubs, concerts and festivals including The Chicago Jazz Festival, Sutton’s Bay (MI) 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, Cleveland's Bop Stop and venues in Phoenix, San Francisco and Denver.
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, features an outstanding Chicago quartet also with multi-instrumentalist Sullivan.
Jim’s awards include a 1986 National Endowment for the Arts grant, a WYCE-FM "Jammie Award," and 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 and in 2022, his song, Waltz For Betty was heard on the Apple TV show, For All Mankind.
As an educator, Jim has taught vibraphone for the Jazz Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University. Since 2001, he has taught summers at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and is currently, an adjunct instructor at Lake Michigan College, where he teaches a variety of music courses. He 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