Percussionist and big band leader Michael Waldrop has had a very successful relationship with composer Dr. Jack Cooper, late of the University of Memphis, Berlin, and parts unknown. Waldrop attended the University of Memphis for his master's degree (helming Cooper's Jazz Orchestra of the Delta) before completing his doctorate at the University of North Texas. Their previous big band collaboration, Time Within Itself
(Origin, 2015) was received with favorable reviews at All About Jazz. This was Waldrop's debut recording leading a big band and he meant to make a big impression.
On the present Origin Suite
the two again join composing forces for the progressive three-part suite. "La Jungla" features synthesized vocals, and outstanding electric guitar solo by Jimi Tunnell and some expansive elastic bass playing by Jeff Plant. "Nativite" presents with a welcoming melody accented by Waldrop's tart vibes playing. The closing suite movement, "Al Final de la Noche" features more complex vibraphone playing from the leader. Percussion driven, the suite deftly incorporates all elements of modern big band in shifting times and tempos among harmony of great invention. Cooper contributes the additional composition "Sheath and Sword" while also accepting arrangement duties for Waldrop's "Ivana" and "Belgrade." Drs. Waldrop and Cooper have put together an impressive book of compositions and arrangements that beg for what they might do next. It will be exciting.