In Concert

From There To Hear

Multi-dimensional Drummer

Jerome Cooperreview

What is multi-dimensional drumming? After dealing with polyrhythms, I began to hear layers of sounds and rhythms. Divided into many parts and facets, the drum set and secondary instruments I use and play are all aspects of the drums. In the future, there will be many changes and developments in the area of the mind – so what we (humankind) think and hear, is what we shall see and hear. In order to play the drum set you must be able to manipulate four or five things at one time (i.e. bass drum, snare drum, high-hat, ride cymbals and maybe voice). So an instruments name and structure doesn’t stop me from playing them like a drum. You have instruments that are structurally different from the drum, but they have the same characteristic in the approach to the drum (i.e. piano, balaphone and shoes with taps). In order to find the music of the drums, I had to change my assumptions and beliefs about music in relation to the drums, which is sound in the creation of multi-rhythms. In the liner notes I will try to explain the music on this CD, from the instruments I am playing, to the structure of the improvisation.

The chiramia is a wind instrument. It is played with a double reed. Mine have six stops (some have three, four and two). They are from Mexico. To me, the chiramia is my voice synthesizer. In Mexico, some musicians play it along with their drums. In my performance, I use two, mostly played individually, but sometimes together. Through the years, I have given them names. "Slim" is the name of my chiramia with the harsh sound to it. "Big Mama" is the name I gave to the chiramia with the mellow sound. "Repooc" is the psychic name I’ve given my balaphones, talking drums and cymbals (African), snare drums and tom-toms (American). My bass drum is assigned the name of "OM," and my high-hat's name is "Julio." People who are familiar with my music from the 60’s and 70’s know that I played piano as a secondary instrument. During the period of the Revolutionary Ensemble, I would play the drum set and then go over to the piano. The problem was external duality. When Yamaha and Casio came out with the electronic keyboard and drum synthesizer, it became part of my drum set (i.e. bass drum, snare drum, high-hat, cymbals and electronic tonal rhythmic activator). "Emorej" is the name assigned to my Yamaha. Look at it this way – some musicians give names to their instruments (i.e. B.B. King’s guitar "Lucille"). Or you can look at it another way – a lot of drummers carry and play percussion instruments (i.e. gong, whistles, bongos, etc.). I do the same thing except all of my percussion instruments are synthesized into one instrument.

The music on this CD is from live performances at two venues--Roulette and The Knitting Factory--spanning the years 1995-98.

The first piece, Bantul, (Roulette, May 28, 1998) was composed while I was living in Indonesia on the island of Java. Bantul is the name of the area of the city of Yogyjakarta. It is my musical impression of certain gamelan music. It has two parts, which I would describe as the pedal tone and then the groove.

Monk Funk (Roulette, May 11, 1996), is an old piece, first recorded in 1987 with my quintet on About Time Records. The basic inspiration came from when I would change my daughter’s diapers.

Variations of a Theme (Roulette, May 11, 1996) is almost totally improvised, except for the theme "My Funny Valentine", which is implied on and off during the chiramia (Slim), bass drum (OM), high-hat (Julio) and tonal activator (Emorej) improvisation.

My Life (The Knitting Factory, June 3, 1995) is a totally improvised work. The piece begins with the tonal activator, bass drum and balaphone. The bass line is programmed during balaphone, bass drum and high-hat improvising. The two chiramias are improvising off of the first movement.

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (The Knitting Factory, June 3, 1995). I like playing this piece because it is very much drum-oriented; meaning that the melody is so powerful that you can play any chords or rhythm with it. Most folk melodies are like this.

The Indonesian (Roulette, May 28, 1998) was composed during my Indonesian stay. It is my impression of people of that country.

I have traveled to Africa, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Europe, and Mexico. In these cultures there are drummers who once they get to a level in their art, can pursue a career as a soloist. This has not been the case in American music. But it must happen, if Jazz is going to be considered American classical music. All instruments must be able to have the option of becoming a soloist. So this, for the past 30 years and even before that, has been my goal: to improve the quality of the American music- Jazz.

Finally, I would like to thank certain individuals who, directly and indirectly, have helped me and the music through the phenomena called "Time." Jim Staley, Donald and Barbara Deering, Bob and Nancy Cummins, Louise Thomson, and last but not least Tom Buckner.

Creatively,

Jerome Cooper

 

Roulette performances recorded by Jim Staley

Photographs (except on back of jacket) by Beth Cummins

All compositions (except Goodbye Pork Pie Hat) by Jerome Cooper and published by Republishing Co., BMI. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat by Charles Mingus and published by Jazz Workshop Inc., BMI.


Reviews

Jerome Cooper
During the 1970s Cooper drummed alongside Leroy Jenkins and Sirone in The Revolutionary Ensemble. Now, as then, his commitment is to raise the cultural status of jazz drumming. Recorded live at Roulette and the Knitting Factory, during three gigs between 1995-98, this is an attractively melodic and intricately polyrhythmic solo percussion album. Cooper has absorbed lessons from drummers worldwide. He uses balaphones and talking drums and integrates secondary instruments, including an electronic keyboard and the chiramia, a double reed wind instrument. It says a lot that he can import aspects of gamelan without banality and make "My Funny Valentine" sound almost entirely unfamiliar. Julian Cowley, Wire


Jerome Cooper - In Concert: From There to Hear - Mutable Music 17506-2

This solo CD by percussionist Jerome Cooper cannot be considered unnecessary - his few LPs as a leader have not been reissued on CD (at least when this one came out). In Concert: From There to Hear was put together from a handful of performances at Roulette and the Knitting Factory (both in New York) between 1995 and 1998. Cooper performs on a regular jazz drum kit, African instruments (talking drums, balafon), electronic drums, keyboards and samplers, and the chiramia, a Mexican double-reed instrument. His music is hard to pigeonhole, to say the least.

Imagine a drummer who plays this flute with one hand, bass drum and high-hat with his feet, and triggers drum loops, chord sequences and bass patterns with his other hand. Whether it is written or improvised, the resulting music is closer to world-funk than avant-garde jazz. “Bantul” is propelled by a gamelan-like melody played on the balafon. “Monk Funk” opens with a synthetic drum loop backing Cooper’s cymbal playing. Five minutes later he moves to other parts of his kit before grabbing his chiramia and settling into a melody and groove. “My Funny Valentine” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” have little to do with the standards they represent and will infuriate any purist. “My Life” is completely improvised, but the use of pre-determined sequences and the development of a melody on balafon make it sound as structured as the other tracks on the disc. Highly confusing for anyone into avant-garde music and free improv, Cooper’s music represents a strange hybrid and a very personal form of expression. Yet, surprisingly, its vocabulary remains somewhat limited. - François Couture, All Music Guide


JEROME COOPER - IN CONCERT - FROM THERE TO HEAR (SOLO PERCUSSION) (Mutable 17506-2)
Jerome Cooper: “I have traveled to Africa, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Europe and Mexico. In these cultures there are drummers who once they get to a level in their art, can pursue a career as a soloist. This has not been the case in American music, but it must happen if Jazz is going to be considered American classical music. All instrumentalists must be able to have the option of becoming a soloist. So this - for the past thirty years has been my goal; to improve the quality of American music.”

This is stated by a guy who has been working his way through the American soundscape with collaborators as Oscar Brown Jr., Steve Lacy, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Alan Silva, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor and many others.

Jerome Cooper elaborates further in the CD booklet: “After dealing with polyrhythms I began to hear layers of sounds and rhythms. Divided into many parts and facets, the drum set and secondary instruments I use and play are all aspects of the drums. In the future there will be many changes and developments in the area of the mind - so what we (humankind) think and hear, is what we shall see and hear. In order to play the drum set you must be able to manipulate four or five things at one time (i.e. bass drum, snare drum, high-hat, ride cymbals and maybe voice). An instrument’s name and structure doesn’t stop me from playing it like a drum. You have instruments that are structurally different from the drum, but which have the same characteristics in the approach to the drum (i.e. piano, balaphone and shoes with taps). In order to find the music of the drums, I had to change my assumptions and beliefs about music in relation to the drums, which is sound in the creation of multi-rhythms. […]

The chiramia is a wind instrument. It is played with double reed. Mine has six stops (some have three, four or two). They are from Mexico. To me, the chiramia is my voice synthesizer. In Mexico some musicians play it along with their drums. In my performance I use two, mostly played individually, but sometimes together. […]

During the period of the Revolutionary Ensemble (1971 - 1977) I would play the drum set and then go over to the piano. The problem was external duality. When Yamaha and Casio introduced the electronic keyboard and drum synthesizer, it became part of my drum set (i.e. bass drum, snare drum, high-hat, cymbals and electronic tonal rhythmic activator). […]

A lot of drummers carry and play percussion instruments (gong, whistles, bongos etcetera). I do the same thing, except all of my percussion instruments are synthesized into one instrument.”

This CD consists of live takes from Roulette and The Knitting Factory in the late 1990s, featuring, as the recording company puts it, “Cooper’s multi-dimensional drumming”.

Track 1 is “Bantul”. Cooper explains that the piece was composed while he was living in Java, Indonesia. He says: “Bantul is the name of the area of the city of Yogyjakarta. It is my musical impression of certain gamelan music. It has two parts, which I would describe as the pedal tone and then the groove.” Beginning on a note which reminds me heavily of the water drums of Burundi, Cooper soon moves into a rhythmically jerky and swaying gamelan sound world, even resembling the bamboo gamelan of Sangkar Agung in Bali, but the general rhythmic values also harbors similarities to the sounds of a westerly oriented vinyl from Ravi Shankar in the 1960s, on takes like “Tala Rasa Ranga” (flute, sitar, tabla, dholak, kartala, manjira) and “Tala - Tabla Tarang” (tablas). The wonderfully clear and spherical sounds - like brittle Christmas balls shining up in the tree! - roll and shine through the music, which moves on steady as a locomotive across the Montana expanses a smoky cold winter day of high skies and sharp air. This is refined and bare-stripped rhythm-and-blues.

“Monk Funk” is an older piece of Cooper’s, re-recorded at Roulette in May of 1996. Metallic ganglia sway and swirl in front of a steady bass rhythm, which repeats in a minimalistic idiom deep inside the web of sounds, conjuring a feeling of density, of high-voltage and urgency, if not relentlessness. The silver of the close-up metal rattling spurts shiny, gray metal dust across the situation, and metals and minerals have the say here! Eventually the background comes forth, as the metal withdraws, and a jungle jingle of deep-throated rhythms progresses in a brownish and woody drum-frame skin-feel of almost military properties of the Civil War at a get-together at the Mason-Dickson line! Tally-hoe! The chiramia plays the soaring bee-swarm snake-charm spirals of North India shahnai dust hours. Elephants team up in a stomping, vibrating, ground-shattering circle, as the rhythmic grand stand of here and now soars and hovers like an alien space ship right at the center of attention!

“My Funny Valentine” is a very traditional tune, of course, but Cooper states that he is implying the theme on and off during what otherwise is a total improvisation.
The piece kicks off in a peculiar multi-rhythmic, layered fashion, envisioning lustrous early 20th century small town America social gatherings in town squares of the orderly and only in secrecy sinning citizens. The feeling is that of a quirky, sarcastic Charles Ives or a more head-on Lou Harrison. A funny property of the piece is the persistent bass beat of bop America, applied here in a Charlie Parker mimicry, or like a wall-paper pattern, in front of which the soloist - sounding like a whole gang of people - performs his Funny Valentine obsession! The chiramia emerges again just like an Indian shahnai oboe, rendering the by now slowed-down music an introverted, nose-tip sensuality of introspection and cow dust hypnosis of Rajasthan. This section with the chiramia dangling and swaying above the sparse, transparent bass accompaniment is utterly beautiful, and I could listen to just this part for hours. If I could influence Cooper I’d have him make a double CD containing only this bass and this chiramia. This is the music of winter night meditations inside heated confinements of the outside cold where the snow is crunching under threading Red Wing boots.

“My Life” is, says Cooper, completely improvised. Cooper’s life has got to be fast and speedy, because this rocks and rolls frantically down the line, like a haywire engine of some adventurous jail-brake movie of North America. This could well be the hectic - but still poetic - sound space of the emergence of the writings of the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; “On the Road”, “The Dharma Bums”, “Mexico City Blues”, “HOWL”, “Kaddish”, “Planet News”… wow!!! It hits hard with inspiration through smoky cities of the eastern and western seaboard, right across the great mystical night of this elusive continent, from New York City to san Francisco on a Budweiser and a Marlboro and tons of poetry inside the shaking, trembling and growling dump truck of existence! I instantly burn some incense, turn up the volume and let the piece make another spin through the laser box. This music inspires me to put on my winter garments and head on out into the forest with a notebook and a pencil to take down whatever poetry might descend on me!

“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is a funny title indeed! Of course it’s a classical piece of music too. Deep bass chords of modal properties open this poetic surge of the chiramia, which suddenly takes on the guise of a soprano saxophone, howling and growling in the density of the moment, building up into an epic story of the soul on foot in American cityscapes of brick walls and asphalt streets, high-rises of the downtowns and worn-down tenement barracks of the forced poverty of structural violence. Cooper is on the side of the human spirit through all this structural indecency of society, which one can easily tell from the surging force of his almost desperate outpour inside this “Pork Pie Hat” catharsis!

“The Indonesian” concludes this brilliant set of pieces from the mastery of Jerome Cooper. He says that this piece was conceived during his Indonesian residency, as an impression of the people of those parts. This is the only piece of the set where you can distinguish the sound of a synthesizer, the way you usually envision one, in progressions of walls of string-like sounds - but this is merely at the outset, because Cooper constructs a density of sound wherein a strong but somehow laid-back melody is whisked ahead by whistles and an arching head-on rhythmic waveform.

This CD has given me much inspiration and soul power. - Ingvar Loco Nordin, SONOLOCO


Drummer/percussionist Jerome Cooper's fruitful musical legacy with the Revolutionary Ensemble and stints with saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, pianist Cecil Taylor, and others reads like a who's who in modern jazz. Recorded during two solo live performances spanning 1995-1998, Cooper's remarkable agility and captivating musical spirit is enacted throughout these predominately endearing works.

Cooper's polyrhythmic drumming and multitasking persona is prominently exhibited on this outing. The opening piece, "Bantul," features the artist's idyllic spin on Indonesian gamelan music, as he utilizes the West African instrument known as the balaphone: a mallet instrument consisting of tone bars arranged across a wooden frame.

Here, Cooper states an innocent and memorably melodic childlike theme along with a march-like pulse rendered on his drum kit. The percussionist also integrates an electronic keyboard and electronic tonal rhythmic activators into his vast rhythmic arsenal, whereas some of these sounds and sequences may be the result of triggering techniques. On "Monk Tune," he executes oscillating patterns atop an ostinato pulse, while also using his tom-toms as a vehicle for African style rhythms. Cooper crafts a world beat groove via his extended soloing on the chiramia (a Mexican woodwind instrument) during Charles Mingus's classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." However, at nearly twelve minutes in length, Cooper's intense, chant-like choruses tend to wear a bit thin. Nonetheless, this recording provides listeners with a broad perspective of the artist's irrefutable enthusiasm and glittering musicality. - Glenn Astarita

December 2001
Allaboutjazz.com


Jerome Cooper has accompanied many of the big names of free jazz, but this reviewer's chief previous encounter with the percussionist was on one of Anthony Braxton's best records, New York, Fall 1974. Cooper's playing on that date stands out for its uniquely light but driving touch. His work on this new CD has the same qualities, although Cooper spends only a fraction of the disc on drumset, moving to keyboard, hand and mallet percussion and "tonal rhythm activator" for long stretches. Thomas Buckner's voice on the this set of live duo improvisations delves into low groans, high cries and semi-operatic stylings, but steers clear of harshness. The brief final cut, "All Out," makes comic use of a canned rhythm pattern, but otherwise this is meditative music-the titles ("Evocation," "Journey," "Return") give a strong suggestion of what their intentions were, and what they achieved. Avoiding poking and prodding, Cooper and Buckner work alongside one another patiently, on the same wavelength. - Pat Buzby, Signal to Noise, Summer 2003