RTV: Jerome Cooper

Release Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000

In this episode, Jerome Cooper tries to change the perception of drummers with his performance that incorporates the balaphones, chiramia, synthesizer, and rhythm machine in addition to the drum set.

Pointing out that many cultures, other than American, consider accomplished drummers as valued soloists, Cooper has stated his goal to “improve the quality of American music.” He supports this aim with his captivating solo performance titled All That Is or Is That All the Music. Cooper not only employs the instruments of the conventional drum set (each of which he has given “psychic names” that describe and evoke their characters, eg. “OM” for the bass drum and “Julio” for the high-hat) but also plays balaphones (“Repooc”), two types of the Mexican double reed instrument called the chiramia (“Slim” and “Big Mama”), a Yamaha synthesizer which supplies melodic and harmonic materials, and a Casio rhythm machine. This setup parallels the practice of other cultures in which drummers typically sing or play winds simultaneously with their drumming. Cooper’s performance is a suite of contrasting moods, concluding with an astonishing display of “multi-dimensional” polyrhythmic sensibilities. In his interview, Cooper discusses the origins of and tensions within the highly influential Revolutionary Ensemble which he co-founded, his interest in sound qualities and the natural generation of rhythms, and his changing roles with collaborators such as Cecil Taylor, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Oliver Lake, Lester Bowie, and Rashaad Roland Kirk.

Cooper’s fruitful musical legacy with the Revolutionary Ensemble and stints with Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, and others reads like a who’s who in cutting-edge jazz. Nowadays, Cooper’s polyrhythmic drumming and multitasking persona are prime influences in his mesmerizing solos. Wonderful combinations of Indonesian gamelan, West African timbres, jazz kit, and garageband electronics surprise the audience with their satisfying post-everything style.

Aired on rTV: 2000
Performance date: 05/11/1996
Episode digital release date: 05/07/2010
Host: Phoebe Legere
Produced by Jim Staley

RTV: Jerome Cooper // Extended Interview