With Tim Ponzek
Count on composer and saxophonist Jessie Allen Cooper to come up with something different and innovative with each new recording. He has created a unique sound on his new PACIFIC LOUNGE album by only having two instruments ï¿½" his soprano saxophone accompanied by acoustic piano played by Tim Ponzek.
While the combination of these two instruments by themselves is a different sound than most listeners have ever heard, the result is hauntingly beautiful. Not only are saxophone-and-piano duet albums virtually unheard of, but a soprano saxophone is only occasionally heard in the field of new age music. This unusual recording, featuring a dozen carefully-crafted tunes, was specifically designed as romantic, relaxing, chill-out music ï¿½" a perfect prescription for everyone in today's hurried, stressful, noisy world. The album is available in quality book and record stores nationwide as well as online at sites such as amazon.com, digital download locations and Cooper's own www.CooperSoundWaves.com.
"The idea behind the title of the CD is that the music is meant to help listeners unwind just like they were walking along a beach somewhere," Jessie explains. "I like to think of the ocean as a lounge. An ocean is one of nature's best relaxation tools. Think about how it affects all your senses: the water is great to look at or swim in, you can watch the clouds and the blue sky, you feel the sunshine and cool breezes, the sound of the waves is very relaxing, and even the air has that salt-tang to it. The music on PACIFIC LOUNGE is meant to give you a similar feeling and peaceful state-of-mind."
Cooper has released new age music previously ï¿½" most notably his first album, HEAVEN SENT. That also was a unique duet recording, that time between his saxophone and kalimba player Buddy Kithara (the CD was remastered and reissued in 2004). Now considered a new age classic, it was first released more than two-decades ago, making Cooper one of the genre's pioneers. The difference in the two CDs is that HEAVEN SENT was entirely improvisational while the music on PACIFIC LOUNGE is carefully composed and arranged (although select solo breaks within some of the pieces are improvised).
Among Cooper's other new age recordings is the therapeutic and healing SOUND OF FEELINGS, an ambitious five-CD set (plus a sampler) of varied instrumental music that captures distinctly different emotions (anger, love, depression, happiness, etc.). The music was created specifically to go with the book "Living With Feeling" by best-selling author Lucia Capacchione ("Visioning," "Power of the Other Hand"), who uses the music extensively in her classes and seminars. Shortly after completing that project, Jessie got the opportunity to again explore wide-ranging emotions with his music when he released the groundbreaking album "9-11-01," a full-length soundtrack documenting the disaster that happened that day. Cooper's music also has been on multi-artist new age lifestyle recordings including Hallmark's MUSIC TO SHUT OUT THE RUSH HOUR and SONGS OF THE DOLPHIN, MCA/Sona Gaia's COLLECTION ONE, and Narada's RADIOACTIVE and NUAGES.
In addition, Cooper has released two acclaimed albums, SOFT WAVE and SOUND TRAVELS, that contain a mixture of soft contemporary instrumental numbers alongside smooth jazz tunes making him one of the few musicians unafraid to mix genres and styles within a recording. "Even when the arrangements are soft, my melodies still tend to come out of the jazz tradition," says Jessie. "For example, I can perform the music on PACIFIC LOUNGE in concert as a duet or with my full band." Besides his successes in the new age music field, Jessie also has a strong background in blues and jazz, and among his other albums is MOMENT IN TIME which is smooth jazz from start to finish.
On PACIFIC LOUNGE, Cooper wrote all of the melodies and usually conceived the form the song would take, but Ponzek was intimately involved in helping craft the final arrangement. "Tim utilizes a very distinct style of chord progression that brings a lot of movement underneath the saxophone melody line," explains Jessie. "His chords add structure and strength to the pieces and especially harmonize with my melodies."
The inspiration for the PACIFIC LOUNGE music came from Cooper's deep emotional intention to express eternal love, friendship and romance. "I think the music works well for people in intimate situations," says Jessie. "But it also can be effective for meditation, massage, yoga, exercising, being spiritual or just taking it easy. It's primarily for relaxation. People in today's society are so bombarded with stress, pressure and noise, I hope this music will offer some gentle relief."
According to Tim Ponzek, "What separates this CD from so many others is the strength of Jessie's melodies. The structure of the music works on many different levels. It can be enjoyable in the background when you're chilling or brought to the forefront when you want music you can listen to intently."
"Sociologists have identified a segment of society they call the 'Cultural Creatives'," Cooper adds. "There are more than 50 million people who care deeply about relationships, peace, social justice, ecology, spirituality, self-actualization, self-improvement and self-expression. I feel the music on PACIFIC LOUNGE works especially well with their lifestyle and activities."
Two tunes ï¿½" "Within Thought" and "In A Silent Place" ï¿½" capture the feeling of "that quiet, still place deep inside us all where we go to visit special memories," according to Cooper. Another pair of compositions ("Ballad for an Artist" and "Waltz for an Artist") were inspired by Jan Deswart, "one of the most versatile artists in the world. He was a sculptor, wood-carver, inventor, game creator and much more." Other music on the CD ranges from the sadness of "Ballad for a Broken Heart" and the wistfully poignant "Passion Remembered" to the sultry "October Moon" ("looking into the eyes of a beautiful woman on a moonlit night"). "Song For You" was written for a good friend ("when you've done something wrong, it's not a bad idea to write a song for that person") while "Thought for a Friend" is "dedicated to all my friends because friendship is such an important aspect of life."
Cooper lives in Southern California a few blocks from the ocean, but he grew up in Everett, Washington. He began playing harmonica at an early age (and still performs on it occasionally in concert and on a few songs on his SOUND TRAVELS album). In his late teens, saxophone became his primary instrument (although he also plays keyboards). Starting in high school, he was in a succession of bands playing different styles of music -- Mosehops (hard blues-rock), Rainbow Blues Band (strictly the blues), DÃ©jÃ vu (funk and R&B) and Aurora (pop-rock). Cooper moved to Los Angeles where he got gigs playing with The Coasters and Charles Wright before beginning to record more of his own music. On his various albums, Cooper has used many top musicians including Rusty Hamilton, Steve Reid, Russ Freeman, Ricardo Silveira, Rob Mullins, Steve Katz, Steve Bailey and Osamu Kitajima.
Ponzek graduated with a BA degree in piano and music composition from Temple University in Philadelphia. Tim also is a guitarist and a singer-songwriter with a solo album (RIGHT TO THE EDGE) and a duet recording with Lisa Pressman (IF THE SKY WAS HOME). He joined guitarist Robben Ford in the band behind John Alberti on a jazz album. Ponzek also has backed many well-known artists in concert including Andy Williams, Leslie Gore, Bobby Vinton, The Drifters, the Blues Brothers, The Coasters and Peter Marshall.
"I don't know why there aren't more saxophone-and-piano albums because it's a natural marriage," says Cooper. "The piano has the percussive attack of hammers on strings and can play both rhythm, melodies and counter-melodies, while the saxophone is the opposite -- a wind instrument that plays the melodies in a floating, soaring way over the top. Personally, I love the combination of the two."
Check out the artist's website:
1. Pacific Lounge
2. Within A Thought
3. Ballad For A Broken Heart
4. Inside A Dream
5. Thought For A Friend
6. Ballad For An Artist
7. St. Patrick
8. Waltz For An Artists
9. October Moon
10. Passion Remembered
11. Song For You
12. In A Silent Place