Jack Cooper (musician)

Jack Cooper

Jack Cooper, 2002
Background information
Birth name John Thomas Cooper, Jr.
Born (1963-05-14) May 14, 1963
Whittier, California, U.S.
Origin La Habra, California, U.S.
  • Saxophone
  • Clarinet
  • Flute
Years active 1981–present
Associated acts The Jazz Knights
Warner Brothers Publishing
Alfred Music Publishing
Jazz Orchestra of the Delta
The Michael Waldrop Big Band
Berlin Jazz Orchestra
Notable instruments

Jack Cooper (Née John Thomas Cooper Jr., May 14, 1963) is an American composer, arranger, orchestrator, multireedist, and music educator. He has written music for internationally known pop, jazz, and classical artists including Aaron Neville,[1] Marc Secara, Jiggs Whigham, the Berlin Jazz Orchestra, Lenny Pickett, Joyce Cobb,[2] Donald Brown,[2] Alexis Cole, Jimi Tunnell, Young Voices Brandenburg, Bobby Shew,[3] Christian McBride,[4] the Westchester Jazz Orchestra,[5] the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors, the Dallas Wind Symphony,[6] and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. His catalogue of music includes jazz through contemporary classical; he has worked for Columbia Pictures Publishing, Warner Brothers, and Alfred Music as a staff arranger since 1993.[7]

Early life, musical education and influences

Jack Cooper was born in Whittier, California on May 14, 1963, he was raised in nearby La Habra.[8] He is the younger brother of artist and stylist Cathy Cooper and also the grandson (x4) of Mrs. Harriet Blanton Theobald, "Mother of Greenville."[9][10] His mother, Georgie Cooper, was an accomplished classical pianist and he served as her page turner on piano and organ jobs.[11] His father was an amateur clarinet and sax player who gave Cooper his first instruments. First musically inspired by clarinetist Artie Shaw at age eleven, he later was taken by Charlie Parker's playing on the alto sax from his dad's 78's; he took up the flute in college.[12][13][14]

After graduating from Sonora High School and having first studied with Ernie Del Fante, Cooper attended Fullerton College where he studied composition and arranging with Tom Ranier and saxophone with Dave Edwards and Don Raffell (later studied with Peter Yellin in New York).[15] While at Fullerton College he recorded on the Down Beat award winning LP, Time Tripping playing saxophone and woodwinds in FC's collegiate jazz groups. He later transferred to California State University, Los Angeles where he received a BA in Music education and clarinet in 1987 having studied with Vito Susca. Cooper also studied jazz composition with and was heavily influenced by Stan Kenton's former staff arranger Bob Curnow. "Since college, when I first began studying big band musical arrangements, (I) wanted to orchestrate for jazz ensembles."[16] Two years later he completed a MA in composition at C.S.U.L.A. and had studied with Byong-Kon Kim, William H. Hill, and David Caffey.[17] Cooper was classmates at C.S.U.L.A. and worked closely with both Eric "Bobo" Correa and Grammy winning trombonist Luis Bonilla. He has collaborated closely on several musical projects over the last 20 years with Bonilla with the most recent one being Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra.[18]

Later composition studies were with David Baker, Gerald Wilson,[19] Manny Albam, Karl Korte, and Richard Lawn; in 1999 he earned a DMA in composition from the University of Texas at Austin.[20][21]

His first notable professional work in Los Angeles as a multireedist was with the Kingsmen, Shari Lewis, Mateos Parseghian, the Tak Shindo Orchestra, Si Zentner, Steve Jam, the Dive, and the Last Mile.[7]

Armed forces and the West Point Jazz Knights

At age 25 (in 1989) Jack Cooper won an audition to work as a saxophonist and staff arranger for the United States Army Jazz Knights stationed at West Point, 40 minutes north of New York City.[22] For 6 years he toured, performed, and recorded extensively with the West Point Band's musical group to include A&E television appearances at the Hatch Memorial Shell with the Boston Pops, jazz festivals across the Northeastern United States, backing entertainers and jazz artists such as Bob Newhart, Lee Greenwood, Pete Yellin, Chris Vadala, Byron Stripling, and playing on and writing for demos and studio recordings.[7] He participated in the funeral of former President Richard M. Nixon in April 1994;[23] he was awarded the Army Commendation and Achievement medals while also rising to the rank of staff sergeant.

During this period in New York through 1995 he worked extensively backing other entertainers and artists such as Tony Martin, The Lettermen, Clint Holmes, Fred Travalena, Dennis Wolfberg, and worked as arranger and saxophonist for 3 years with the band Alma Latina.

Professional career

As instrumentalist

Cooper has played woodwind instruments professionally since the 1980s. His work includes backing Jennifer Holiday, Kenny Rogers, Macy Gray, Manhattan Transfer, Glen Campbell, Mitch Ryder (and Detroit Wheels) and playing woodwinds on national tours for the Producers, Sweet Charity, and A Chorus Line among many others.[7] He is known primarily as a "lead alto player," a role he has played for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Guy Lombardo Orchestra, the Temptations and the CD Coming Through Slaughter: The Bolden Legend.[24][25][26] He has also been a featured guest artist/soloist at the Western States Jazz Festival,[27] the Birmingham International Jazz and Blues Festival (U.K.),[28] the 45th International Horn Symposium,[29] and the Festival Virtuosi (2007) in Recife, Brazil.[30]

Cooper has been a featured artist and soloist with the Hot Springs Festival Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the IRIS Symphony Orchestra, and as chamber soloist internationally.[31][32][33] He is amongst a small group of musicians who have a playing career being able to cross over from jazz to classical to pop on several woodwind instruments.

As composer (highlights)

Cooper has served as a composer and arranger on more than 150 works since first writing music in the early 1980s, including solo instrumental pieces all the way through full symphonic works for orchestra and singers.[34] His writing style has been described as "propulsive and sassy on an initial listen, revealing subtle shadings and intricate nuances upon repeated listening. I might have guessed Don Sebesky...on a blindfold test."[35]

He was hired in 1992 as a staff arranger for Columbia Pictures Publishing/Belwin; his television and media music writing credits include the The Jenny Jones Show, Danish Radio 2 (DR P2), E! Entertainment shows, Access Hollywood, JBVO: Your All Request Cartoon Show, American Restoration, Deal or No Deal, and Extra.[36] His music has been featured at numerous venues around the world to include the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival.[37]

Since December 1998 he has been the musical director, composer and chief arranger for the Jazz Orchestra of the Delta; in 2003 they produced the CD Big Band Reflections of Cole Porter featuring Cooper's original compositions and arrangements. Singer Sandra Dudley is utilized as the primary singer for the group. The CD includes commissions he had written for Gary Foster and Peter Erskine; Marvin Stamm serves as the guest soloist on this release.[7] He also serves as the musical director and chief arranger for Kathy Kosins and her show Rhapsody in Boop.

Serving as both composer and musical director, in February 2006 Cooper collaborated with choreographer Mark Godden to produce the ballet Two Jubilees commissioned by and for Ballet Memphis.[7] His musical influence on the ballet as composer and musical director was praised: critic Christopher Blank commented, "...if one were to consider a title that better unified the program's two very different ballets, a fitting substitute would be 'Jazz Orchestra of the Delta,' or even just the word 'Cooper.' Performing live for the dancers, the excellent 17-piece ensemble founded by Jack Cooper...was a marvelous treat midway through the ballet's (sic) season..."[16][38]

Cooper conducting the Mists recording session on April 4, 2014 at Systems Two Recording in Brooklyn, New York

Though his catalogue has a great deal of varied music, his work emphasizes the big band genre.[16] His big band writing has been featured with many groups internationally on the professional and educational levels, "...this style of jazz music (sic) is my wheel house of expertise."[19][39] Two definitive CDs were recorded in 2014 that exemplify Cooper's adeptness as a jazz orchestra composer and arranger: Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra and Time Within Itself.[40] Both are recognized internationally as exceptional examples of contemporary, progressive big band composition and orchestration. All About Jazz reviewer C. Michael Bailey notes about the Time Within Itself recording, "...Cooper is a star here in the same way that arrangers were in 1949 on Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool Recordings.[41]

Chamber and solo works

His Sonata for Trombone was commissioned in 1997 by the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity at the University of Texas at Austin. This work has been widely performed and recorded by trombone artists including Luis Bonilla, Mark Hetzler, Tom Brantley, Lance Green, Chris Buckholtz, and Michael Davidson (among others).[42][43][44] A review of Sonata for Alto Saxophone described it as belonging with "such landmark 'jazz/classical' pieces as the Phil Woods Sonata, on any recital or concert program that explores (both) these worlds."[45] The work was commissioned by Paul Haar and first premiered in July 2000 at the 12th World Saxophone Congress in Montreal, Canada.[46]

One of the Missing – for those lost in Iraq for euphonium was commissioned in 2007 and premiered in 2008.[47] It is a protest piece that shows the composer's anti-war stance against the Iraq War; the title is taken from the anti-war/Civil War short story and film adaptation of Ambrose Bierce.[48] The work was also used on the soundtrack of a 2011 Canadian television film broadcast on the Vision network.[49]

Berlin, Germany, 2015/2016

From June 2015 through August 2016 Cooper lived in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borough of Berlin, Germany. He served as a staff arranger, musical director and production assistant for Marc Secara and the Berlin Jazz Orchestra and the Young Voices Brandenburg for live performances and recording sessions.[50][51][52] He also assisted in arranging for the Collegium musicum Potsdam Symphony Orchestra and the Compass Big Band.[53][54] Cooper has conducted music and performed in venues of Berlin such at the Wühlmäuse Theater, Heimathafen Neukölln and Kunstfabrik Schlot.[55] He also served as a Visiting professor and Artist-in-residence at the SRH Hochschule der populären Künste.[56] He has worked closely with German jazz, pop and Schlager personalities such as Marc Secara, Jiggs Whigham and Marc Marshall.[57][58]

Awards and special recognition

Jack Cooper is the 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Achievement in the Creative Arts Award from the UMAA.[59] He was chosen in 2003 as a nominee for the annual NARAS Premier Player Awards and also was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Aaron Copland Fund Recording Program that same year.[60][61] He is also the recipient of numerous ASCAP composer awards since 1996.[62] As a presenter he has been honored as the key-note speaker for the Modern Language Association, scholar and main presenter for four different National Endowment for the Humanities series on American Music, and the Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities.[7]

Teaching and education career

Jack Cooper has been teaching at the collegiate level for over the past 18 years. Before his appointment to the University of Memphis as director of jazz studies 1998, he had taught privately and worked as a clinician for the U.S. Army Jazz Knights. He has served as an invited clinician, guest artist, and conductor for the Missouri All-State Collegiate Jazz Orchestra, the Tennessee All-State High School Jazz Ensemble, and the Arizona All-State High School Jazz Ensemble.[63] He also serves as an educational clinician/artist for Alfred Music Publishing making appearances at state educational music conventions throughout the United States.[7]

Musical compositions and arrangements

Audio Recordings

As instrumentalist

As composer, arranger, conductor or producer (and instrumentalist on select tracks)

Film, television, DVD, video

As instrumentalist/actor

As composer/arranger/conductor/musical director

Books, educational media, articles as reviewer

Other artists worked with (partial list)

Discography (select, reviewed)

Year Album Primary artist
Type Label U.S. Canada U.K. Germany Review
1983 Time Tripping instrumentalist Studio Trend AM PM Down Beat
1st Place Winner
1988 Monstrosity! instrumentalist
# CSULA 888 Los Angeles Times
1994 Mainstream arranger Studio/Live FC Down Beat
1998 Games arranger UNI Down Beat

best CDs of the 1990s
2003 Big Band Reflections of Cole Porter Primary artist
Studio Summit JazzWeek
August 22, 2003
Jazz Journal
very positive
All About Jazz
Upside Out composer
(title track)
Sea Breeze JazzWeek
February 6, 2004
All Music Guide
2004 Memphis Jazz Box producer
Studio/Live Icehouse Commercial Appeal
2009 Coming Through Slaughter: The Bolden Legend instrumentalist Studio Galloping Cow Exclaim!
very positive
Down Beat
2010 The Chamber Wind Music of Jack Cooper Primary artist
Centaur Fanfare Magazine
very positive
2014 Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra Primary Artist Planet Arts JazzWeek
October 6, 2014
Roots Music Report
October 26, 2014
BBC Radio 3
November 1, 2014
playlist choice
Jazz Podium
Highly recommended
All About Jazz

Chicago Tribune 2014 Top 10 Jazz
2015 Time Within Itself composer
Origin Records JazzWeek
April 13, 2015
Jazz Journal
All About Jazz
2015 Local Color composer UNI All About Jazz
2015 Blues, Ballads and Beyond composer Summit Classical Musical Sentinel
very positive
All About Jazz
2016 I Can Do All Things composer JDW Music Roots Music
Amazon 'Vine Voice'

See also


  1. Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, September 30, 2011, The Shadow of Your Smile arranged for orchestra by Jack Cooper for Aaron Neville
  2. 1 2 Sparke, Jon W. BPACC Showcase flows in with tribute to Ellington, The Commercial Appeal, August 28, 2009. Jack Cooper, musical director/arranger for Joyce Cobb and Donald Brown
  3. Shew, Jazz Orchestra Bring Out Best in Each Other. Austin American-Statesman, April 28, 1997, pp. E3, Music for Shew by Jack Cooper, also on the 2001 CD Showcase
  4. McBride stresses work, luck, Austin American-Statesman, April 1, 1997, Page E2. Music for McBride by Jack Cooper, also on the 2009 CD Voices
  5. The Westchester Jazz Orchestra, commissioned work and premiered September 24, 2005
  6. Scene for Brass commissioned by the Dallas Wind Symphony and premiered on September 14, 2004
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Alfred Music biographical page
  8. La Habra Cornerstone Masons: notable people from La Habra, CA.
  9. Jack Cooper's mother is Georgie Blanton Finlay Cooper from Greenville, Mississippi who is direct lineage to Harriet Blanton Theobald
  10. Blanton-Smith Collection, University of Mississippi. Department of Archives and Special Collections. University, MS 38677, USA
  11. Georgie Cooper discography at Discogs – biography page.
  12. Focus on the Arts WUMR Radio interview with D.J. Malvin Massey (reviewed from recording), talking about Cooper's background in music, February 2004
  13. Cooper's adeptness as a clarinetist is demonstrated on "Memphis Blues" and "Tiger Rag" from the CD release Ninety Years of Making Music in Memphis: The University of Memphis
  14. Cooper adeptness on the alto sax is demonstrated on his composition "The Protagonist" on Youtube
  15. Alumni Biographical page, Fullerton College Music Department
  16. 1 2 3 Blank, Chistopher. Ballet Memphis takes a jazzy step – Choreographer Mark Godden swings to a new set of beats by Big Band jazz arranger Jack Cooper. The Commercial Appeal, February 10, 2006.
  17. Cooper, Jack. "Solace" a Three Movement Composition for Saxophone Soloist and 18 Piece Jazz Orchestra. Los Angeles: California State University, 1989. M.A. THESIS
  18. April 4, 2014, recording completed at Systems Two Recording in Brooklyn, New York of Cooper's 8 adaptations/orchestrations of Charles Ives music, Luis Bonilla producer. Released August 22, 2014 on the Planet Arts Records label
  19. 1 2 "Gerald is 95 now, I had studied with him in Los Angeles...", Jack Cooper. interview with Kacky Walton, Checking on the Arts, Natl. Public Radio, WKNO-FM, Memphis, October 9, 2013.
  20. Alumni Biographical page (jazz), The University of Texas, Butler School of Music
  21. Cooper, Jack T. Three Sketches for Jazz Orchestra Inspired by Charles Ives Songs. University of Texas at Austin, 1999. Thesis (D.M.A.) OCLC 44537553
  22. Department of the Army Enlistment and Honorable discharge records from Cooper, Jack T., orders 196–1 dated November 30, 1989 and orders 33–5, dated February 22, 1995
  23. CSPAN, funeral of Richard Nixon, April 1994
  24. Lover Man, The Memphis Jazz Orchestra, Jack Cooper, solo/lead alto sax, June 2, 2013.
  25. WREG-CBS, Live at Nine television broadcast, Cooper playing lead alto on Summer Wind
  26. Coming Through Slaughter: The Bolden Legend on YouTube, Jack Cooper lead alto sax and woodwinds
  27. Western States Jazz Festival, Los Angeles, CA. clarinet and composer – guest artist on main concert, 1 March 2013
  28. Cooper featured with the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra, Fat Chops Big Band, Great Birmingham Trombone Company, 6–9 July, 2013
  29. 45th Annual Symposium of the International Horn Society, Tribute to John Graas Concert, July 31, 2013, 1:00 pm – 2:30
  30. Festival Virtuosi, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
  31. Ellis, Bill. Ma, Stern Resonate Far Beyond The Musical Score, The Commercial Appeal, September 20, 2000. Cooper – alto saxophone and clarinet soloist, IRIS Orchestra
  32. Sparks, Jon W. 'Nut ReMix' brings energy to new Cannon Center setting The Commercial Appeal, November 23, 2014. Cooper – tenor saxophone soloist on Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker adaptations, MSO Big Band
  33. Cooper as clarinet soloist performing in Birmingham, England. Dance Preludes, Witold Lutoslawski, July 6, 2013
  34. Please refer to list of published works in article
  35. McClenaghan, Dan. All About Jazz, review, June 25, 2003
  36. IMDb Listing, Jack Cooper, also refer to Double Helix
  37. UNI Jazz Ensemble Band One, playing The Cage (arr. Jack Cooper) at the North Sea Jazz Festival, July 10, 1998
  38. Blank, Christopher. Spirit of jazz sets stage for tribute – Ballet premieres divergent pieces, The Commercial Appeal, February 13, 2006.
  39. Yokohama Aoba Jazz Band Japan and Big Band de Sarreguemines France are examples of international groups using Cooper's music.
  40. Jack Cooper Interprets Ives On New CD, U of Memphis CCFA Newsletter "Voices" Winter 2015
  41. Bailey, C. Michael. All About Jazz. "Notable And Nearly Missed 2015" Reviews. December 25, 2015
  42. Sonata for Trombone, Eastern Trombone Workshop, 16 March 2011, Washington D.C., Michael Davidson – trombone soloist
  43. Sonata for Trombone recorded by Luis Bonilla
  44. Sonata for Trombone recorded by Mark Hetzler on 'Blues, Ballads and Beyond' for Summit Records
  45. Dempsey, David. Sonata for Saxophone, Saxophone Journal, Jan./Feb. 2012, pp 14
  46. XII° Congrès Mondial du Saxophone, July 9th, 2000, World Premiere of the Sonata for Alto Sax (Université du Québec à Montréal) Montréal, Québec, Canada
  47. One Of The Missing, ITEA International Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, 2008
  48. Today, section 2.2.4 of Euphonium Repertiore, Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia
  49. Teens Gone Wrong, Volume 1,, television series Vision of Youth Ministry, VisionTV 2011
  50. The Berlin Jazz Orchestra
  51. Young Voices Brandenburg on the internet
  52. Mehr, Bob. "Bob Mehr's Music Beat" Memphis Commercial Appeal, April 16, 2015
  53. Klassik am Weberplatz "Symphonic Swing" with Marc Secara and Collegium musicum Potsdam Symphony Orchestra, 02/07/2016
  54. Compass Big Band Berlin, performance on June 5, 2016 of Cooper's music.
  55. Kunstfabrik Schlot Berlin concert, January 27, 2015, three new arrangements played of Cooper's
  56. hdpk begrüßt Jack Cooper als ersten "artist in residence"
  57. 'SONGS OF BERLIN' Marc Secara, Jiggs Whigham, Berlin Jazz Orchestra, arr. and cond. Jack Cooper on Youtube
  58. "In dieser Stadt" Marc Secara, Jiggs Whigham Berlin Jazz Orchestra, arr. and cond. Jack Cooper on Youtube
  59. 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Achievement in the Creative Arts Award
  60. Ellis, Bill. Premier Player Awards To Honor, The Commercial Appeal, March 1, 2003
  61. 2003, Planet Arts Recordings, New York, NY, Works of Charles Ives interpreted for jazz orchestra by Jack Cooper: $10,000
  62. Connors, Jennie. Four U of M Music Professors Awarded ASCAP Awards, the Daily Helmsman, September 9, 2003
  63. Hot House arr. Jack Cooper- 2012 Arizona All State Jazz Band conducted by Jack Cooper
  64. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Allmusic Guide, credits, Jack Cooper
  65. Swingopoly at Discogs
  66. Enriching Life With Jazz CD, Love For Sale, arr. Jack Cooper (4:51) OCLC 774893336
  67. Bowers, Jack. Review, All About Jazz, May 8, 2012
  68. Peanuts for Christmas – Die Big Band Der Lübecker Hochschulen, released 4. December 2012, MP3 CD, Winter Wonderland, arr. Jack Cooper (4:25)
  69. Sounds of the Season CD, "Oh Holy Night" arranged by Jack Cooper
  70. Jack Cooper-solo tenor sax, Valerie chose... the University of Memphis, uofmemphisvideos
  71. Jack Cooper-solo tenor sax, Cathy chose... the University of Memphis, uofmemphisvideos
  72. Experiencing jazz Students CD ROM, McGraw Hill. Content on website for Routledge Publishing OCLC 68712015, 764304925
  73. U or Memphis School of Music, UOM137-FY1112/3M
  74. Baur, John. Practical Music Theory, Chapter 19 – analysis of Jack Cooper's arrangement of What a Wonderful World, Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. 2014. pp. 287–289, ISBN 978-1-4652-1790-5
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