Cooking up great jazz with Craig Bailey


“Night of the Cookers” conjures a couple of touchstones for jazz fans. It’s the title of a landmark 1965 album by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard that’s hailed as one of the best live recordings of a jazz band at its peak.

In jazz parlance, “cooking” also refers to playing that’s simmering just right. That kind of transcendence is highly likely when saxophonist/reed man Craig Bailey and band take the stage at White Horse Black Mountain on Wednesday, April 5. The concert is part of the weekly Jazz Wednesdays Series at White Horse.

Bailey took up the recorder as a child in Cincinnati, which soon led him to other members of the woodwind family. During his high school and college years he mastered saxophones, the flute, and the clarinet and went on to earn an undergraduate degree in music from the University of Miami and a Master of Arts in jazz from Queen’s College in New York. He lived for many years in NYC, learning from old masters and young innovators.

Bailey worked steadily and toured with a number of big bands, including stints with Charles Persip and Slide Hampton and nearly 20 years as lead alto sax player with Ray Charles’ band. During this time he also played with smaller combos and began to hone his craft as a composer, eventually recording four albums as a band leader. While he takes great joy in bringing to life the music of other composers, his greatest satisfaction comes from performing his own compositions.

Since his emergence as a leader in the mid-’90s, Bailey has been recognized as one on the most consistently inventive and significant reed players of his generation. In addition to his performing and recording activities, Bailey is currently a member of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music faculty, where he teaches saxophone and conducts the CCM’s acclaimed Jazz Lab Band.

And on sax ...

Who: Craig Bailey

When: 7:30 p.m. April 5

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $10 advance, $12 door