By David Walters

As jazz pianist George Cables said at one point, “We don’t need to prove anything.”

And The Cookers don’t. Because they have all “been there and done that” over and over again in their long jazzy lives. Spanning the ages of jazz from 1935 (Cecil McBee), to the youngster in the group (David Weiss) born in 1964, they have been together for over 15 years and are considered a Jazz Supergroup, who teach the Master’s Master Class, who are so finely in tune with themselves and each other that they don’t play the music, but instead they are playing with the music and audibly dancing with each other.

The Cookers are performing at Birdland Jazz Club through March 2. Birdland has, since 1949, been at the forefront in jazz history, granting to the city a home for everyone who’s anyone in jazz. Walking through those doors you are walking both back and forth through history at the same time as the baton is being passed from hand-to-hand, musician-to-musician.

In playing jazz, listening is key. The Cookers have big ears that come from playing as long as they have and from playing together, again, for as long as they have. That ability to listen leads to points of drama in the music that produce a collective of sensitive accompaniment of each other leading the band indisputably in the moment.

Though they are each brilliant in their own right in their compositional skills and outstanding improvisational prowess, the night I was there, Billy Hart’s drumming brought a lightness and frivolity to the music that I had never experienced before. It was something that the audience immediately picked up on and joined in with the melodic baselines and syncopated rhythms.

The group consists of George Cables on piano, Billy Harper on sax, Donald Harrison on sax, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Cecil McBee on bass, Billy Hart drums, and David Weiss on trumpet features compositions by Harper, Cables and McBee rearranged for the group by Weiss.

With a repertoire boasting six full-length recordings, among which their iTunes Jazz CD of the Year, “Time and Time Again” stands out, this ensemble of jazz luminaries has graced the stages of many prominent international festivals: from the iconic Newport Jazz Festival to the vibrant New Orleans Jazz Fest, from the sophisticated Umbria Jazz Festival to the illustrious North Sea Jazz Festival, their performances have been celebrated worldwide.

For those eager to experience the mastery of jazz embodied, witnessing the Cookers is a must. With each member boasting significant contributions to the genre’s history, collectively, they’ve lent their talent to over 1,000 recordings. As February transitions into March, Birdland becomes the stage where these jazz maestros reign for five unforgettable nights.