Music a passion for former 3M salesman
BULLHEAD CITY — Local musician Ken Cooper is jazzing up for a big album release party at one of his regular venues, Lisa’s Bistro & Bar.
Cooper will perform his second album, “Life Is…,” and share the lyrical inspiration during a dinner party at 5:30 p.m. Monday to celebrate the album’s pending release.
Cooper writes and performs under the name “K-Brick,” a notable name in the Tri-State, with regular sets at the Bighorn Cafe within the Laughlin River Lodge and Monday evenings at Lisa’s Bistro.
Cooper’s musical journey began at a young age. As a small child, he fell in love with marching bands at football games and picked up the baritone horn while in grade school.
“I made up my mind around 5 or 6 years old that I was going to be in music,” Cooper said.
His father, a jazz musician in Los Angeles, sent him a clarinet and he began classical training at school.
“I changed from a brass instrument to clarinet, because he was a saxophone player and he recognized that the best way to do woodwinds was to start on clarinet,” he said. “I learned clarinet so I didn’t really have to study that much to pick up saxophone, flute or even oboe now.”
At 12 years old, Cooper went to live with his father in L.A. and began private clarinet lessons with Milton Hall.
Cooper’s teacher recognized his talent and tailored his instruction to allow him to become a top musician in his school.
“I’m very intense about music,” Cooper said. “I worked very hard at it, and I went up through the ranks in band until I was at the top. I cherished being first chair in band, so once I got there, I never lost it.”
Cooper credits his junior high bandmaster, Donald Dustin, as his mentor and the person who began broadening his skills to other woodwind instruments.
“He nurtured me and got me involved in a lot of things I wouldn’t have done,” Cooper said. “He brought me a bass clarinet to try the first year because he said, ‘you need to span out.’ Then the next year he brought an alto clarinet for me to play.”
Once Cooper began high school, a classmate asked him to join his band and he learned to play saxophone. For several years after, he played with various bands throughout California until a new opportunity presented itself.
Cooper took a sales and marketing position with 3M Company, which became his career until retirement 32 years later.
The Tri-state area was part of Cooper’s sales territory and he was very fond of the beauty of the Colorado River and surrounding landscape.
He made Laughlin his home in 2010 and with time on his hands, Cooper picked up his horns again after decades away from music.
Although he had not performed for more than 30 years, Cooper continued to write songs. He had numerous original pieces, and while he always thought of himself as a horn player rather than a singer, he needed someone to sing his lyrics so he took on both roles.
“I’m just a simple horn player who can carry a tune,” Cooper said. “But people seem to like my voice, I think because it’s just a nice mellow voice.”
His first gig in the area was at Cork and Beans, now Lisa’s Bistro.
“I’m in my ninth year of continuously playing on that stage (at Lisa’s), and I’m very fortunate for that,” Cooper said. “It’s a blessing.”
In 2012 he released his first album, “Some Intimate Moments.” His second album is a sequel in the anthology, with two more albums set to record within the next year.
One of Cooper’s personal favorite tracks on “Life Is…” is “Not Just in Heaven,” which he wrote for a friend who died a few years ago.
“Pete was always coming in with this group of women. He was kind of the husband tagging along. He would sit at the table with like 12 women at Lisa’s and then all of a sudden I would take the stage and Pete would turn toward me and smile, and kind of tune the rest out,” Cooper said with a chuckle.
“And one of the refrains in the song goes, ‘Smile more, when I pass away I’m looking for a sunny day, and not just in heaven.’ It’s basically saying that I want you to smile more than cry, and that was because of Pete and the image I had of him.”
The album is full of Cooper’s life reflections and friendships, many that he made right at Lisa’s Bistro. Therefore, it’s fitting that Lisa’s, at 1595 Mohave Drive in Bullhead City, is holding the release party.
All are welcome to attend for a night of soul jazz, dinner, wine and relaxation.
Stetson Winery donated wine and will be pouring glasses at the event.
Tickets are $25 per person or $45 per couple, and include dinner, drinks and a special edition of the album. If you cannot attend the dinner, Cooper’s new album is available for purchase on CDBaby.com, and soon will be on iTunes and Spotify. His first album may be found at these sites as well.
“Tastes of Love” will be his next album, with the focus on romantic tunes. The fourth album will be “In This World Together.”
“Having grown up in segregation, I don’t like a lot of what I’m seeing today because I see it as hate,” Cooper said.
“But my grandfather taught me that we’re all in this together, all while he was being called some of the worst names because of being black in the South,” he continued. “So that’s what the fourth album will be about, but it’s positive because I’m about being positive.”
Cooper records at Larry “Spyder” Neal’s studio in Bullhead City. Neal was a childhood friend of Cooper who also retired to the Tri-state, and set up a studio specifically for Cooper. Local music engineer Mike Means records and mixes his albums.
Aside from his regular weekly performances, Cooper has big plans for his music in the following months. He will be the featured performer and music coordinator for the Laughlin International Film Festival Oct. 4-7. He also plans to spend a lot of time recording in the studio through the end of 2018 and possibly going on tour in the new year.