Like many West Coast tenor saxophonists of his generation, Bob Cooper's style was based upon skillful emulation of Lester Young's velvety, vetiver-scented tone, harmonic ingenuity and sinuous technique. The best introduction to this artist would be Coop! The Music of Bob Cooper, released in 1958 by Contemporary Records. Initially known as an exponent of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, he branched out and spent four decades as an all-purpose session man, serving in the reed sections of multiple studio orchestras while maintaining a steady presence on the cool, bop-inflected West Coast mainstream jazz scene.
In 1958 Bob Cooper made inroads into what would later qualify as archetypal lounge music by assisting Juan Garcia Esquivel on his landmark album Other Worlds Other Sounds. He was involved in another flashy project of similar vintage, Shorty Rogers' Manteca: Afro-Cuban Influence. In 1959 Cooper assumed partial ownership of Lighthouse Records Inc. He was present when Russ Garcia's Orchestra recorded with pianist Oscar Peterson and helped with the realization of Elmer Bernstein's score for Otto Preminger's sensationalistic film The Man with the Golden Arm. Coop can be heard on the soundtracks of numerous motion pictures from this period, with titles like "A Building Is Many Buildings" and "Mad at the World." The 1960s began for Cooper with an appearance on Ray Brown's Jazz Cello album and more session work behind singers like Mel Tormé and Peggy Lee. In 1966 he introduced his "Solo for Orchestra" with an orchestra under the direction of Stan Kenton. That same year he was paid to operate an oboe in a studio orchestra backing the TV pop/rock group known as the Monkees.
Bob Cooper inaugurated the '90s by blowing his tenor sax on Madonna's Dick Tracy-inspired album I'm Breathless, followed by a cozy date with vocalist Sue Raney, and a double barrel blowing session with Doc Severinsen's featured tenor Pete Christlieb. He was heard on the soundtrack to Neil Simon's racy romantic comedy The Marrying Man, and in studio bands backing vocalists Manhattan Transfer, Rosemary Clooney, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral. The final months of his lengthy career found him characteristically busy, recording in a group led by pianist Frank Strazzeri, assisting with Frank Sinatra's commercially successful album of overdubbed Duets and accompanying vocalist Lucie Arnaz. Bob Cooper's last live recording was made during a concert performance with trumpeter Conte Candoli; weeks later, on August 5, 1993, he began to experience chest pains while driving home from a session where he'd played in a band backing vocalist Karrin Allyson. Slowing down and stopping his car on the shoulder of the Hollywood Freeway, Bob Cooper quietly succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 67. ~ arwulf arwulf