Black Hat Records presents:

Michael Cooke's CD Statements

Statements Cover

     Statements is a solo album, in the lines of Julius Hemphill's Blue Boye, Joe McPhee's Tenor & Fallen Angels and Anthony Braxton's For Alto. Michael plays all parts and instruments, including some bassoon and percussion. One version of Statements, is a number limited edition enhanced CD for PC and Mac. The enhancement contains an interview, art and poetry by Michael and other artists, information on the instruments used, the stories behind the songs and more. Statements is available with three different covers and poems all by different artists. You can download them from the Black Hat Records website, under the "Free Extras" section. Just print them out on your printer to replace the cover or traycard. The numbered limited edition version is available from Amazon, Black Hat Records.

Reviews of other CDs: an indefinite suspension of the possible, The Is and Searching

Frank Rubolino -Cadence Magazine, Vol. 28 No. 8, August 2002:

Besides a heady dose of solo reed improvisations, Michael Cooke proffers an interesting alternative to liner notes with his interactive computer disc Statements (Black Hat 1002). The CD Rom offers a wealth of opportunities for scrolling through the music, reflecting on a Q & A session and viewing various other tidbits of data the keep one's mouse clicking. Cooke plays alto, tenor, soprano, flute, bassoon, bass clarinet, and percussion on 12 openly spun tunes (Jagged / Viva Guatemala / 35¢ / Cogitation / Three Step Down / Head Bobbin' / Malevolence / 38 / Amblin' / Neptune / Less / Early Exit. 69:53. 5/01-11/01, San Mateo, CA). His approach is not volatile or eruptive. He presents each solo as a logical sequence of phrases rolling up into an integrated whole the flows as would a semi-swift current in a stream. Cooke credits numerous Jazz luminaries as inspiration, such as Kirk and Hemphill, who provide the tonal pattern he follows on one dual-reed sequence. Other pieces show respect for Giuffre, Mingus, Alyer, Coltrane, Dolphy, Sanders, Zorn, Vandermark, and Berne. Throughout it all, Cooke is innovative stamping each selection with his own voice and personalized style that depicts the path but does not clone any of the related styles. His infusion of multiple layers of instrumentation and sonic variations keeps the music challenging while providing all the ingredients for a diversified and well-rounded expedition. This is a very intriguing example of the creative art process with a nod toward technology.

James D. Armstrong, Jr - Jazz Now October 2002 Volume 12, Number 6

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a few virtuoso multi-instrumentalists like Michael Cooke, whose dedication and perseverance in the midst of tremendous competition rise substantially above more conventional offerings.

In twelve finely honed compositions, the absence of strongly defined diatonic chord sequences yields improvisations of tremendous space and depth.   Cooke's rare ability to think "outside the box" reminds us that Jazz, in its best incarnation, is the sound of surprise. To be sure, Cooke's horizontal, tonal-center based approach reflects the influence of Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, and other sonic innovators. However, these powerful forces have been internalized to the extent that Cooke sounds like no one else.

Highlights include "Head Bobbin," a wonderful, polyphonic piece whose bass clarinet countermelody provides a rock-solid pulse for the soprano saxophone,s free invention. The close intervals on "Malevolence" yield a huge spectrum of contrasting effects; this is flute artistry of rare excellence. And the tremendously vocal tenor solo and contrasting tempi on "Neptune" communicate a powerful saga about the pursuit of creative art.

All in all, this is an excellent session.

by James D. Armstrong, Jr.

Editor, Music in Transition

Ted Kane -, September 23, 2002:

Featured Artist: Michael Cooke

CD Title: Statements
Year: 2001
Record Label: Black Hat Records
Style: Free Jazz / Avante Garde

Review: Statements is a collection of original pieces on a variety of saxes, winds and percussion by bay area multi-instrumentalist Michael Cooke. Some of them are solo performances in the strict sense, while most are multi-tracked conversations by Cooke with himself, a la Bill Evans. The thematic material for Cooke's compositions, according to his liner notes, are drawn from his own life experience, and the aforementioned notes also document the musical influences behind the approach taken on each track. But you don't always need a scorecard to tell who the players are; there's no mistaking the influence of Roland Kirk when Cooke attacks the flute, for example, and how can the sound of sleigh bells and the singing bowl fail to put you in the mind of later John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders?

The twelve tracks on the CD proper (the CD is enhanced to provide various additional musical & visual information when played on a computer) paint a portrait of an ambitious young musician probing the depths of avant-garde jazz and displaying the treasures he has found. Some, like the album closing "Early Exit," are full to the brim with this ambition, mixing dozens of instruments into a Ayler-esque dirges that gives way to a harmonically complex, post bop theme that might have been written by Charles Mingus or a young Archie Shepp. Others, though, are more straightforward, such as "Viva Guatemala!" with it's pleasing, almost childlike bass clarinet line topped by a gritty flute solo. And don't think that Michael Cooke is some humorless academic--dig the "Close Encounters" quote in "Neptune," his tribute to Interstellar Space era Coltrane.

This independent release from 2001 might helpfully be compared to a major label counterpart from the same year, Chris Potter's Gratitude. Both CDs find young & talented artists openly assimilating and re-synthesizing the voices of great saxophonists past, though each would do well and take a page from the other and broaden the range of their influences--it wouldn't hurt Cooke to pay more attention to Lester Young and Ben Webster, just as Potter would surely profit from more exposure to, say, Anthony Braxton and Albert Ayler.

Michael Cooke definitely has a lot to say and the multifarious talents to make you listen. If this CD doesn't get your attention, you are probably deaf. Though it may be said that Cooke is still search for his own voice, Statements amply demonstrates that he is looking for it in the right places.

Record Label Website:
Artist's Website:
Reviewed by: Ted Kane

Ray Redmond - Jazz USA Vol 06 - Issue 9 - September 2002

Statements CoversMichael Cooke
(Black Hat - 2002)
tinyarrow by Ray Redmond

This is a very interesting CD. I didn't take it seriously at first because the packaging, although very professional, is obviously self-produced. (Note from Black Hat Records: They received an advanced copy the version for sale is manufactured.) Once you put the CD into a computer, the whole picture changes. The CD launches a well thought out interface that lets you wander through interviews, poetry and artwork for the alternate covers (there are 3), review links, artist and instrument info... there's a lot of stuff here. But what about the MUSIC you ask? Michael Cooke plays alto, tenor, soprano, flute, bassoon, bass clarinet, and percussion on all 12 of these solo expeditions. 'Viva Guatemala' struck me the most, with it's breathy flute overlaying bassoon. 'Head Bobbin' is appropriately titled, horns layered in a semi-rhythmic configuration. Each track is an individual creation. Taken as a whole it is a real album... a collection of pieces that relate, but are not the same. Although some tracks are a little sparse, as solos tend to be, this is some pretty creative stuff and deserves a listen.

assembled by Cactus & gabriella, 06.12.02:

Michael Cooke: Statements (CD)
Cooke (a multi-instrumentalist) challenges himself by playing every instrument you here in each of the ensembles--a variety of woodwinds (saxes, bass clarinet, flute, bassoon) and percussion all sequentially recorded--and challenges the listener with abstract improv and compositions worthy of his influences (Braxton, Coleman, Zorn, Coltrane, Hemphill, and Vandermark, to name a few). Sometimes peppy while at other times brooding, and more often than not navigating the murky shadowlands. (Prem)

Noel Morrison - DJ for KUSF 90.3 FM, San Francisco, CA:

Noel talking about the song "Early Exit" which he played for the Jos Claerbout Coast to Coast Radio Memorial,
"I'm not sure if you were able to tune in this morning, but I wanted to let you know I thought your song was amazing. Nothing has brought back that terrible morning more than hearing your song this morning. I think we had similar mornings that day, as I was also there to see Jos being loaded into the ambulance..."

Gi Dussault - Publicist for "The Upper Room with Joe Kelley":

Just to let you know we just received your CDs. Great music. I'm listening right now. I love both of them.
Last night I read all your bio and I find some comments very interesting.
"I feel that saxophonits should have there own sound. Not the sound of one of my heroes or the sound everyone wants me to have buy my OWN unique sound."
Yes, exactly it's why I love your music. :-)
With your great music, believe me you will have a place on our show very soon.... Joe really liked your music. He just told me and I don't lie, "he is a very good artist." :-)

Larry Ochs - Saxophonist and composer with ROVA Quartet:

I thought it was great man! I was really surprised; there were lots of surprising things in it, which is great!

Joe Kelly - DJ for WVOF 88.5 FM Fairfield, CT, "The Upper Room with Joe Kelley":

I love your music so it is very easy to play on my radio shows.

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