John Cooper Jazz Orchestra
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John Cooper Jazz Orchestra

Macomb, Illinois, United States | INDIE

Macomb, Illinois, United States | INDIE
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"The Baecker Jazz Worship Service"


Before you saw the cover, you wouldn't know it was a projected spiritual album. When listening to “In The Beginning,” then maybe, if not so, then a brief read of the liner notes and then you'd know. Then a hip reference by Rev. DaNita Bell, of the ascertainable of the “Gospel: John 21,” then you're into the irreconcilable BIG IT, then it's smooth all the way to the end on the trolley of the infinite line.

John Cooper's writing, arranging and judicious use of jazz lingo, inspired by Ellington, Basie and Mingus, OH YEAH!

We played “Offertory” on this hip list made solid, extraordinary and different, yet palatable for your jazz palate by composer John Cooper.

Dig it and you'll know, it's a spiritual walk down post modern tin pan alley.
- Dick Crockett - Jazz Radio

"The Baecker Jazz Worship Service"

Trumpeter and composer John Cooper's "Baecker Jazz Worship Service"(Baecker Music Productions), a suite of seven pieces for big band, was conceived for the 50th anniversary of the United Church of Christ in Illinois. Cooper, a former Wayne State University student who teaches at Western Illinois University, has a firm command of the orchestra, solid ideas and a fine band stocked with Chicagoans and Detroiters.

You don't have to be religious to dig the way "In the Beginning" slowly gathers steam, the ghostly wind and whispers getting faster and louder until a vocal incantation of "Let There Be Light" explodes into cacophony and furious swing; the music then splinters into a reflective ballad. "Offertory" is Cooper's version of the New Orleans second-line, with some sassy writing for brass and reeds and trumpeter Art Davis' witty solo. The Rev. DaNita Bell delivers the text of "Gospel: John 21" with a brassy punch while the band grooves a bluesy strut. Cooper doesn't necessarily see conflict between a good-time Saturday night and a Sunday sermon -- amen.
- The Detroit Free Press - Mark Stryker

"The Baecker Jazz Worship Service"

A host of artists inhabit the Baecker Jazz Worship Service. The seven parts of the service were composed for the 50th Anniversary of The Western and Eastern associations of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. This music is for everyone and all denominations, plus anyone who appreciates jazz. There are top-notch musicians involved in this CD with the addition of vocalist Reverend DaNita Bell.

The service has seven sections, starting with the beginning prelude, going to the Gospel, an additional composition, offertory, doxology, communion and the postlude. “In The Beginning,” has the sound of wind to indicate that this really IS the Beginning, after that comes the sound of water, and murmur of voices, angels, perhaps? God’s voice, which is female, is heard and light comes forth. This is when you start paying attention, for light is dissonant and with it comes everything you might want to see---or not. The use of tenor saxophone is haunting.

Reverend DaNita Bell reads the Gospel of John 21 during “Gospel,” to an instrumental background, alternating between words and music. The mood is carefree, such as you would have had with everyday, working people at the time of Christ. “St. Anthony’s Light” begins with percussion (David Taylor) extending to a big band sound with trumpet reminiscent of Ray Anthony. There is solid keyboard (Matt Michaels) and a wonderful saxophone section. Jazz enthusiasts will purr.

“Offertory” is written in Preservation Hall style with trumpet and trombone. Jeff Halsey’s bass is a treat, and underneath it all is percussion that lays a firm foundation for other instruments. “Doxology” is short, with all brass, slightly dissonant and a bit askew, with Reverend Bell doing the doxology words. This is a new tonal setting for the familiar words and is pleasing.

“Communion” features keyboard and solo muted trumpet in a tribute to the late musician Royden “Chuch” Magee III. The melody is solitary, but hopeful and a wistful ending is poignant. “This Little Light of Mine,” as with “St. Anthony’s Light’ is a jazz delight with saxophone and trumpet solo’s. Though, I couldn’t readily place the melody until Reverend Bell began singing, the composition would make a wonderful postlude to a church service and features high-note trumpet ending, sure to shake the rafters.

This is a jazz service that could stand alone in a concert hall. If you preferred to omit the “Gospel” and “Doxology,” there would be 43 minutes of jazz music. By including “Gospel” and “Doxology,” you could, also, minister to the audience. A choice to be made depending on your particular situation. By being versatile, the CD could go several ways from good listening to performance.

Copyright 2008 Marie Asner - The Phantom Tollbooth - Marie Asner

"The Baecker Jazz Worship Service"

The Baecker Jazz Worship Service covers seven movements of jazz music correlating to the traditional movements of a worship service: Prelude, Gospel, Hymn, Offertory, Communion, and a Doxology. A great concept, and well executed.

The first track, “In The Beginning,” exploring the work of creation, features a hushed airy opening that moves suddenly, after the command ‘let there be light!’, into a cacophony of brass, strings and percussion, before easing back into a soothing closing. It’s got a great underlying swing feel and feels quite on target expressively, considering its theme. “Gospel: John 21” captures a more celebratory feel, with its upbeat melody line underscoring the dynamic reading of the passage, drums splashing wildly beneath.

The next track of note is the joyful “Offertory,” a sizzling trumpet flying over solid Dixie rhythms. I loved the simple but moving worship of “Doxology,” DaNita Bell’s lovely vocal accompanied by a reverent trumpet. An emotive piano opens standout track “Communion (And Now You’re Gone)” before moving into fuller instrumentation. Thick horns lay down an evocative foundation which builds slowly into a warm crescendo of expressive awe. You don’t have to like jazz to be impacted by the emotive power of this potent track. As it happens, I love jazz and couldn’t get enough of this intelligent composition.

The Baecker Jazz Worship Service closes out perfectly with the bouncy “This Little Light of Mine,” plenty of delightful trumpet acrobatics over DaNita Bell’s warm vocals. I wish there were more artists exploring worship in jazz forms, but John Cooper and his mighty orchestra have made a solid start.

- Christian Music Central - Kevan Breitinger


Watching for Watchung Plaza
The Baecker Jazz Worship Service
Acoustic Chicago



John Cooper is a jazz artist and composer who makes his home in Macomb, IL and is Director of Jazz Studies at Western Illinois University. Cooper began his musical career in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan where he completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Wayne State University in Jazz Studies. While in Detroit, he performed with the Johnny Trudell Orchestra as well as jazz artists Jon Faddis, Carl Fontana, Jim McNeely, Clark Terry, John Fedchock, David Liebman, Gary Foster, Alan Vizutti, James Moody, J. C. Heard, Duffy Jackson, Chico O'Ferrill, Jiggs Wigham Terry Gibbs, Slide Hampton, Ken Watters, and other national touring acts including Aretha Franklin, The Four Freshmen, The Four Lads, Mitzi Gaynor, Henny Youngman, Lola Falana, Roger Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Jerry Lewis, The Temptations, Rich Little, Joan Rivers, The Four Tops, The Spinners, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Lou Rawls.

Cooper continued his education, obtaining a Master's degree in Music Composition from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where he worked as a teaching assistant in Jazz Studies under the supervision of Jazz Studies Director, Jeff Halsey. From Ohio, Cooper moved to New York City to continue studies with jazz artist and composer Jim McNeely at New York University, where he graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Music Composition in 1996. While in New York, Cooper was a member of the BMI Jazz Composer's Workshop and graduated to the Master Composer's group.

He currently is the Director of Jazz Studies at Western Illinois University and is a member of the Hopper Faculty Jazztet. Cooper is an active composer/arranger and bandleader as well as a published reviewer of new music for the International Association of Jazz Educators. He is recipient of multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts to present jazz concerts at Western Illinois University and is a trumpet Artist/Clinician for Conn-Selmer.

His first solo release, Watching for Watchung Plaza has received critical acclaim from Detroit Free Press music critic, Mark Stryker. The John Cooper Jazz Orchestra release "The Baecker Jazz Worship Service" has received critical aclaim by Kevan Breitinger. Cooper was also a featured solosit on the Acoustic Chicago recording released on Stonecutter Records.