Jerome Cooper | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jerome Cooper


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Jerome Cooper has built a fascinating but sadly obscure career by redefining percussion's role in creative jazz while expanding its stylistic parameters. With the Revolutionary Ensemble--the mind-bending early-70s trio he founded with violinist Leroy Jenkins and bassist Sirone--Cooper blurred the boundaries between through-composed and improvised music, ensemble and solo performances, and the rhythmic and melodic functions of percussion. Since then he has collaborated with many musicians--Cecil Taylor, Lester Bowie, Frank Lowe, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy--but increasingly he's been concentrating on solo performances. In addition to the standard drum kit, Cooper uses a variety of ethnic instruments: Moroccan frame drums, the west African balaphone, and Mexican and Chinese flutes. He has written, "I see my drum set as not one but four instruments (bass drum, sock cymbal, snare drum, and tom-toms)." A solo piece on A Confederacy of Dances Vol. 2 (Einstein), a collection of performances from New York's Roulette space, demonstrates his multilinear bent: Cooper metes out a subtly shifting blueslike rhythm along with strong melodic variations played on the xylophonelike balaphone, the kazoolike Guatemalan instrument chiramia, and a cheap Casio keyboard. His keen interest in polymetric rhythms shows in his complex percussive patterns, whose subtle variations construct fabrics of sound that mimic the minute imperfections in handwoven textiles. Cooper's ability to perform this sort of process music and make it accessible is no mean feat. These gigs mark his first Chicago appearances in seven years. Wednesday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. Thursday, 9 PM, Urbus Orbis, 1934 W. North; 252-4446. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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