Primary Instrument: Flute
Henry Cook is a multi-reed player, whose instruments include alto and baritone saxophones, flute, alto and bass flutes, and a variety of folk woodwinds. His passion for many styles of music, including blues, funk, latin as well as African and Arabic musical forms have given him a very eclectic and personal approach to playing.
After studying with Joe Viola at the Berklee college of music in the early eighties, he began his career in Boston playing with the Billy Skinner Double Jazz Quartet. The band worked together for almost ten years, performing regularly at the legendary Wally's Cafe, and playing festivals throughout the Northeast, as well as England and Northern Ireland. They recorded a CD, Kosen Rufu which was a hit on jazz radio, and garnered great reviews in the major jazz magazines.
In 1991 Cook formed his own band with Bobby Ward, the legendary Boston drummer. The band was featured at many festivals in the New York-New England area. Their 1994 Cd Dimensional Odyssey won the Boston Music Award for best indie jazz record, and was a critical success, earning four stars in Downbeat magazine. In 1994 Cook was invited to the Cork Jazz Festival in Ireland as a guest soloist, where he played with a number of rising European stars. In 1996 the band did a tour in Mexico, including performances at the San Miguel de Allende Jazz Festival. During this same period, Cook was one of the mainstays of his friend Salim Washington's Roxbury Blues Aesthetic, performing weekly at the historic Connolly's for a number of years. This band played many important venues, including a regular concert series at the Institute of Contemporary Art. The band also performed and held clinics at area colleges and universities.
In 2001 Cook joined the Either/Orchestra, winner of over a dozen rising star polls in Downbeat magazine. They toured throughout the United States, and in 2004 traveled to Ethiopia to play and record at the Ethiopian International Music Festival. The concert was recorded and released on the Buda label as Ethiopiques 20. In Addis, Cook met a number of local musicians, and took some lessons on the Ethiopian flute, the Washint. This was the beginning of an intense period of discovery and study. When he returned to Boston, he began to make his own Washints, and has since done in-depth reaserch into building and playing Washints. He has built over 400 Washints in all keys and inversions, always staying true to the Ethiopian scales. In February 2008 he met the father of Ethio-jazz, Mulatu Astatke. After maestro Astatke heard Cook playing the Washint, he asked him to join him in the studio for his new recording.
Cook's musical associations include Famoudou Don Moye, John Tchicai, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Cecil Brooks, Howard Johnson, Steve Neil, Joe Bonner, Donald Smith and Mark Johnson among others, each of whom has played on some of jazz' most important recordings.
Alto and soprano saxophonist and flutist Cook's Boston-based quintet is inside but almost outside. It stretches the boundaries the way Eric Dolphy and Jackie McLean did in the sixties. Drummer Bobby Ward is a local legend whose polyrhythmic commentary keeps his bandmates charged. Cook has flute chops and imagination galore as he shows on his Prayer for Bosnia and Appointment in London.
This is in fact a world-class band, a marvelously cohesive group that touches all bases to produce a sound that is strictly its own. In the aptly named Dimensional Odyssey we hear an hour of superb interaction. The compositions are by Cook, Ward and Chanier, except for Mind's Eye, a collective improvisation that speaks volumes for the talent of this group. Slip this disk into the CD player and hit the repeat button if you want to treat your ears.
The new thing is alive and well, and it seems to be still thriving in Boston's jazz scene. Now we hear the Henry Cook band that features drummer Bobby Ward absolutely tearing it up on this live recording. The music is coming out of the Sam Rivers, Andrew Hill, Charles Mingus tradition of the new 60s-ish music...The stellar group covers the rarely-attempted Charles Mingus composition Fables of Faubus but the rest of the tunes come from both Cook and Ward. The elasticity of this exciting music is greatly appreciated in today's world of mediocre jazz recordings. Ward's scorching opener, Latin Bizarre, and Cook's swinging closer, Third Rail leaves the listener wanting much, much more. Everything in between is truly new and exciting. What else can be said about artful, creative and good music, except check out their first recording, the 1994 Dimensional Odyssey. I hope to hear many more recordings by this exciting band.
It may not receive the worldwide acclaim of its Swiss namesake, but the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival has been drawing crowds in the Motor City every summer since its inception in 1980. Boston’s Henry Cook Band was among its 1998 artist roster.The audience was probably unfamiliar with the band’s music, but judging by this recorded document, Cook & company earned a lot of new fans that Labor Day afternoon. No wonder...any ensemble that dares to tackle a Charles Mingus classic like Fables of Faubus --and succeeds in matching the bravado of the original--deserves high praise. Here, the leader offers a splendid sample of his baritone sax work, but elsewhere he proves himself equally adept on alto, as well as flute.