I got out to the rehearsals at Dizzy's house on Long Island," recalls tenor saxophonist Junior Cook of the day in 1958 when he joined Gillespie's band, "and saxophonists James Moody and Sonny Stitt were there -- talk about pressure, man!" Mostly what Cook remembers about that day was the "sheer terror." Cook will be featured at Woodie's Hilltop Pub next weekend for Friday and Saturday evening performances and a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. Freddie Redd will be at the piano, Fred Williams on bass and Philly Joe Jones at the drums.
"I was so nervous, I was trying to play a little soft," Cook says, "so if I made mistakes they wouldn't be too evident. Dizzy said, 'Play it out loud -- if you're going to make a mistake, make a big fat one! Then we'll know what to work on.' "
Cook, then 24, had only recently arrived from his native Pensacola, Fla. But his talents were soon recognized and a few months later pianist Horace Silver "stole" him from Gillespie. He remained with Silver for six years, and also played with trumpeters Freddie Hubbard, Blue Mitchell, Woody Shaw and Bill Hardman.
"I don't travel as much as I used to," says Cook, whose work continues to take him to Europe and Japan several times a year, "but this is my life and I'm ready to go -- have horn, will travel."