THE COOKERS + CHICO FREEMAN 4‑TET | London, Cadogan Hall

Taking centre stage on a cold EFG London Jazz Festival night at London’s Cardogan Hall, Chico Freeman Plus+tet simmered as they cooked up a sumptuous set emboldened by a terrific score off of his new album: Spoken into Existence.

After a sensual start to the night, Freeman’s trademark pink blazer began to glow a fiery red as the heat from Mike Baker’s rattling rose bronze cymbals and the warm, sonorous noise of Kenny Davis’ golden-brown double bass forged a layer of sound that animated the entire hall. The brilliant Luke Carlos O’Reilly’s piano accompanied Chico’s smooth saxophone perfectly and brought the concert back into ice-cold-cool for which Chico Freeman is known.

The only issue quickly became a non-issue thanks to Chico’s pragmatic and playful style. A recurring cough throughout was transformed from problem to percussion and personified why he is still a key player on the jazz scene. A point reaffirmed by an astounding rendition of Erika’s Reverie; and an overall set emblazoned with a passion for what he was doing.

There’s been a lot of talk about walls recently, but the only wall I am willing to talk about is the wall of sound that The Cookers built last night. Over six years in the making and with over a century of experience between them, the ensemble of men made up a group of people who have not only played with many of our heroes but their heroes too. An upbeat set littered humour, excitement and mastery. The hall welcomed the tremendous trickle of the trumpets of Eddie Henderson and David Weis and the bombastic beats of Billy Hart’s drums. Fortified by the legendary double bass artist Cecil Mcbee and the clean cut piano playing of Danny Grissett, Donald Harrison and Billy Harper were able to cement the group’s place at the centre of jazz with saxophone solos that left the crowd in awe.

The act was both inspired by the history these men have made and inspiring for all those lucky enough to hear it. They handled their instruments how most of us wish to handle our lives: with respect, determination and an understanding that we are all only really here to have a good time, which, thanks to them, everyone most certainly did.

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