Cora at the Moers Jazz Festival, 1997
|Birth name||Thomas Henry Corra|
|Born||September 14, 1953|
Yancey Mills, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||April 9, 1998 44) (aged|
|Genres||Jazz, avant-rock, experimental, free improvisation|
|Labels||No Man's Land, Sound Aspects|
|Associated acts||Skeleton Crew, The Ex, Curlew, Third Person, Roof|
Thomas Henry Corra (September 14, 1953 – April 9, 1998), better known as Tom Cora, was an American cellist and composer, best known for his improvisational performances in the field of experimental jazz and rock. He recorded with John Zorn, Butch Morris, and The Ex, and was a member of Curlew, Third Person and Skeleton Crew.
Tom Cora was born in Yancey Mills, Virginia, United States. He made his musical debut as drummer on a local television program and in the mid-1970s he played guitar for a Washington, D.C. jazz club house band. He took up the cello while an undergraduate at the University of Virginia and studied with cellist Pablo Casals' student Luis Garcia-Renart and later with vibraphonist Karl Berger. During this time he formed his own group, The Moose Skowron Tuned Metal Ensemble and began constructing instruments for it.
In 1979 Cora moved to New York City, where he worked with Shockabilly guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, introducing the cello to the honky tonk circuits of North America. He performed at improvising clubs and venues in New York with John Zorn, Fred Frith, Andrea Centazzo, Butch Morris, Wayne Horvitz, David Moss, Toshinori Kondo and others. Cora also collaborated with George Cartwright and Bill Laswell which led to the formation of the art rock band Curlew in 1979. Cora remained with Curlew for over ten years and appeared on five of their albums.
In 1982 Tom Cora and Fred Frith formed Skeleton Crew, an improvising rock and jazz band best known for their live performances where they played various instruments simultaneously. Cora and Frith were each one-man bands on stage and for their act, Cora constructed musical contraptions he could play with his feet. The band existed for five years during which time they toured Europe, North America and Japan extensively. They made two studio albums, Learn to Talk (1984) and The Country of Blinds (1986), the latter with Zeena Parkins who had joined the band in 1984. In October 1983 Skeleton Crew joined Duck and Cover, a commission from the Berlin Jazz Festival, for a performance in West Berlin, followed by another in February 1984 in East Berlin.
Cora was also a member of the improvising trio Third Person, formed in 1990 as a live collaboration with percussionist Samm Bennett and a "third person" who changed from concert to concert. Two CDs of some of their performances were released, The Bends in 1991 (with "third persons" Don Byron, George Cartwright, Chris Cochrane, Nic Collins, Catherine Jauniaux, Myra Melford, Zeena Parkins, and Marc Ribot) and Luck Water in 1995 (with "third person" Kazutoki Umezu).
Cora performed with a number of other bands, including Nimal with Momo Rossel and post-rock quartet Roof. In 1990, he played two concerts with Dutch anarcho-punk band, The Ex, and the success of this collaboration resulted in Cora performing hundreds of concerts with The Ex and appearing on two of their CDs. In 1995 in The Netherlands, Cora and Frith collaborated, as Skeleton Crew, on Etymology , a CD-ROM sound sample library of sonic sounds and wire manipulations.
Tom Cora died of malignant melanoma at the age of 44 in a hospital in the south of France, where he lived with his wife, singer Catherine Jauniaux, and their son, Elia Corra.
A month after Cora's death, a benefit concert in aid of his family was held at the Knitting Factory with appearances by Catherine Jauniaux, Fred Frith, George Cartwright, Zeena Parkins and others. A CD of this concert, It's a Brand New Day – Live at the Knitting Factory, produced by John Zorn, was released on Knitting Factory Records in 2000. But the good intentions of all concerned were never realised when Knitting Factory Records was bought out and Jauniaux received no royalties from the sale of the CD.
John Zorn also compiled Hallelujah, Anyway – Remembering Tom Cora , a two-CD set featuring a selection of recordings by Cora and some of the groups he recorded with, plus new recordings of Cora's compositions.
Cora appeared in Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel's 1990 documentary film on Fred Frith, Step Across the Border , in which Cora and Frith are filmed rehearsing at The Kitchen, New York City in February 1989.
In addition to performing with other bands and musicians, Cora began a solo concert career in 1986. The prospect of managing a concert-length performance single-handedly was a challenge with risks, but he learned to balance risk with intention and the results were solo performances across North America, Europe and Japan. Two live albums from some of these performances were released in 1987 and 1991.
While in The Netherlands, Cora spent two months at STEIM, the electro-acoustic research centre in Amsterdam, where he tailored a live sampling and triggering system to be played with his feet. He unveiled the system in a 25 concert solo tour in 1992. Unfortunately, the unique tailor-made instrument constructed at STEIM was later lost, forgotten on a train while touring Switzerland.
Besides performing, Cora composed music for the National Film Board of Canada, choreographer Donna Uchizono (for which he received a New York Dance and Performance Award in 1990), and a solo cello film score for Dziga Vertov's, Man with the Movie Camera, commissioned by the American Museum of the Moving Image. In 1994 Cora was awarded a Meet the Composer Commissioning Grant to compose an ensemble score for Man with the Movie Camera. It was performed at several North American venues and in Europe in 1996.
Tom Cora's cello was prepared, electronically modified and highly amplified. He developed the style of playing sawed chords and percussive riffs as if his cello was an electric guitar. He banged, scraped and twisted it and did whatever else was necessary to produce the sounds he wanted.
Cora explored non-idiomatic improvising and studied Turkish and Eastern European folk music. The influence of this folk music is evident in much of his work. Skeleton Crew once devoted an entire concert to playing only Eastern European folk tunes.
On stage, his presence was striking. Ed Baxter noted in his biography of Tom Cora:
With his saturnine good looks and gaunt demeanour, he brought a hint of American Gothic to the ever-shifting cartoon soundtrack of the downtown scene. Poised over his instrument and more often than not with all four limbs busy playing something, his was a compelling stage presence.
Jeremy Webster "Fred" Frith is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor.
Eugene Chadbourne is an American jazz guitarist and music critic.
Skeleton Crew was a United States experimental rock and jazz group from 1982 to 1986, comprising core members Fred Frith and Tom Cora, with Zeena Parkins joining later. Best known for their live improvisation performances where they played various instruments simultaneously, they also recorded two studio albums Learn to Talk (1984) and The Country of Blinds (1986).
Third Person was an improvising trio formed in 1990 in New York City, led by cellist Tom Cora and drummer Samm Bennett. Each performance featured an invited guest: A third person. Guests included guitarist Marc Ribot, harpist Zeena Parkins, clarinet player Don Byron and saxophone players George Cartwright and Kazutoki Umezu and many others.
Curlew is an American experimental free jazz group founded by saxophone player George Cartwright in 1979. Members of the band have included cellist Tom Cora, drummer Pippin Barnett, guitarists Davey Williams and Fred Frith, and bassist Bill Laswell.
Zeena Parkins is an American harpist active in free improvisation and jazz. Parkins plays standard harps, as well as several custom electric harps; she also plays piano and accordion. She is currently a guest faculty member for composition courses at Mills College.
Timothy "Tim" George Hodgkinson is an English experimental music composer and performer, principally on reeds, lap steel guitar, and keyboards. He first became known as one of the core members of the British avant-rock group Henry Cow, which he formed with Fred Frith in 1968. After the demise of Henry Cow, he participated in numerous bands and projects, eventually concentrating on composing contemporary music and performing as an improviser.
Learn to Talk is a studio album by United States experimental rock band Skeleton Crew, recorded at Sunrise Studio, Kirchberg, Switzerland, between Christmas and New Year 1983/1984. It was their debut album and was released in 1984.
The Country of Blinds is a studio album by United States experimental rock and jazz band Skeleton Crew, recorded at Sunrise Studio, Kirchberg, Switzerland, December 1985 and January 1986. It was their second and final album and was released in 1986.
Keep the Dog was a United States-based experimental rock touring band from New York City formed in 1989 by English multi-instrumentalist, composer and improvisor Fred Frith. The sextet was conceived as a review band for performing selections of Frith's extensive repertoire of compositions from the previous 15 years.
That House We Lived In is a double live album by the United States experimental rock band Keep the Dog. It comprises material from their final European tour in 1991 and was released by Fred Frith on his own Fred Records in 2003.
Fred Frith appears on over 400 recordings. This is a selection from bands he was/is a member of, collaborations with other bands and musicians, and his solo recordings. The year indicates when the album was first released. For a comprehensive discography, see the Discography of Fred Frith by Michel Ramond, Patrice Roussel and Stephane Vuilleumier.
Step Across the Border is a 1990 avant-garde documentary film on English guitarist, composer and improviser Fred Frith. It was written and directed by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel and released in Germany and Switzerland. The film was screened in cinemas in North America, South America, Europe and Japan, and on television in the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France. It was also released on VHS by RecRec Music (Switzerland) in 1990, and was later released on DVD by Winter & Winter Records (Germany) in 2003.
Step Across the Border is a soundtrack double album by English guitarist, composer and improvisor Fred Frith, of the 1990 avant-garde documentary film on Frith, Step Across the Border. The album features music from the film performed by Frith and other musicians, and covers ten years of Frith's musical career from 1979 to 1989.
Learn to Talk / Country of Blinds is a CD compilation album by United States experimental rock and jazz band Skeleton Crew. It was released by RecRec Music in 1990 and comprises the band's two studio albums, Learn to Talk and The Country of Blinds, with two tracks omitted from the former album, and one track omitted from the latter.
Maybe Monday is an American experimental electroacoustic improvisation music ensemble comprising guitarist Fred Frith, koto player Miya Masaoka and saxophonist Larry Ochs. The trio was formed in San Francisco in March 1997 when they performed in a concert at the Great American Music Hall. They have since toured the United States, Canada and Europe, and released three albums between 1999 and 2008.
Cosa Brava is an experimental rock and free improvisation group formed in March 2008 in Oakland, California by multi-instrumentalist and composer Fred Frith. The band comprises Frith on guitar, Zeena Parkins on keyboards and accordion, Carla Kihlstedt on violin, Matthias Bossi on drums, and The Norman Conquest on sound manipulation. All About Jazz described their music as "somewhere between folk, Celtic, modern chamber, Latin, funk, Eastern, and prog-rock".
Catherine Jauniaux is a Belgian avant-garde singer. She has been described as a "one-woman-orchestra", a "human sampler", and "one of the best kept secrets in the world of improvised music". Her solo album, Fluvial (1983) is regarded as one of her most accomplished works. She was married to the late American experimental cellist and composer Tom Cora.
Etymology is an audio source library recorded in 1995 by Skeleton Crew. It was released by Rarefaction in 1997 in the United States on audio CD and CD-ROM for Macintosh and Windows 95 PCs. The sound files are royalty free, and Rarefaction stated that they are free for use in "musical or multimedia project[s]".
Hallelujah, Anyway – Remembering Tom Cora is a 1999 double-CD compilation album by various artists dedicated to United States cellist and composer Tom Cora, who had died on April 9, 1998. It includes material composed in Cora's memory, songs he had written for other musicians and groups, and a selection of music he had performed and participated in. It was released in May 1999 by John Zorn's Tzadik Records.