Before he died at 44 in 1998, the brilliant experimental player was a central figure in ‘80s and ‘90s New York avant-jazz scene.
Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of experimental jazz cellist Tom Cora‘s passing. Only 44 when he died, the musician came up in the vibrant 1980s and 90s downtown New York experimental jazz scene driven by visionary composer and saxophonist John Zorn and centered around the earliest incarnation of the famed Knitting Factory. Like fellow cellist Arthur Russell, Cora was interested in exploring the full range of his instrument, whether through bowing, plucking, pounding, or some wild combination thereof.
Were he alive today, Cora would likely be an established titan, and the evidence of this lost genius’s voice can be found below.
As a kind of palate cleanser, here’s Cora in an undated solo performance.
In 1993, Cora appeared with Dutch punk band the Ex in Budapest, one of the few performances of a collaboration that produced two great studio albums. The first, Scrabbling at the Loch, is a wicked avant punk record.
A constant collaborator, he was a member of Skeleton Crew with harpist Zeena Parkins and guitarist Fred Frith. Here’s them at CBGB’s in 1986-ish.
Cora was also a founding member of Curlew. Here’s one version of the band — with Cora, George Cartright (sax), Davey Williams (guitar), Ann Rupel (bass), and the brilliant Pippin Barnett on drums.
Here’s a wild recording of an improvised set with Cora, Frith and John Zorn on radio station WKCR in 1986.
Another searing set from Cora and the Ex, also from ‘92.
Cora explored looping and live sampling in this 1987 performance: