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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : Ardent Reception for Tenor Sax Giant

July 19, 1993|LEONARD FEATHER

Literally and figuratively, Bob Cooper stands tall among the Southland's tenor sax giants. Saturday at Chadney's in Burbank, leading a quartet, he offered rewarding evidence of the small group setting that has always suited him best, despite his extensive experience in big bands (most memorably Stan Kenton) and studio jobs.

Cooper's sound is big and bold when this is called for, yet gentle and appealing at ballad time. Although he is very much his own person, hints of the late Zoot Sims occasionally come to mind.

His choice of tunes is rarely predictable. Dipping into the Ellington library, he came up with such lesser-known works as "Kissing Bug," by Billy Strayhorn and Rex Stewart, and Ellington's own "Don't You Know I Care." Sonny Rollins was represented with "Airegin" and "Oleo," both perfect vehicles for Cooper's consistently fluent and original ideas.

With Ross Tompkins offering typically tasteful backing at the piano, an extraordinary bass soloist in the left-handed John Leitham, and Jake Hanna on drums, Cooper had a rhythm team worthy of him. Leitham's choruses on "It's You or No One" ranked among the evening's most exhilarating moments. He will return to the room Wednesday leading his own trio. Chadney's has a tendency at times to draw a talkative crowd, but on this occasion the overflow audience not only listened but offered enthusiastic applause for every solo. The room has developed into one of the area's most musically rewarding venues.

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