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April 19, 2008

Tom Cora - Gumption in Limbo

Tom Cora stands as the greatest improvisational cellist ever recorded. His music is totally unique and non-generic, i.e. universal. In his playing, you hear all the sweet mournfulness of Pablo Casals, all the joyful idiosyncracy of Joseph Spence, and all the discordant exuberance of Albert Ayler, rolled into a highly virtuosic and singular style. And seriously, how often to avant-garde cellists come around? The world became a poorer place when he died of melanoma in 1998. The beauty of this music is insurmountable. It fills me -- body, soul, and mind.

it has been said:
The late Tom Cora produced far too few solo albums in his lifetime. Gumption in Limbo is among the few documents of his astonishing musicianship as a solo cello performer. Involved extensively in avant-garde and improvised music, his solo work is outstanding for its lyrical and melodic qualities that touch on folk, classical and avant-garde, not to mention that on stage he could create a deeply personal music that is beyond genre and into realms of pure beauty.

A longtime fixture of the New York City downtown music scene, cellist, composer and improviser Tom Cora was best known in avant-jazz circles, although his eclectic pursuits led him in a wide variety of musical directions.

Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Cora began studying cello while an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, later honing his craft under the tutelage of vibraphonist Karl Berger. His 1979 arrival in New York City coincided with the emergence of a new and fertile era for experimental music, and he quickly fell into a circle of like-minded artists which included John Zorn, Eugene Chadbourne, Andrea Centazzo, Butch Morris and Fred Frith; influenced by progressive rock, jazz, and avant-garde composition, Cora developed a distinctive style, playing guitar-like sawed chords and percussive riffs while amplifying his cello for maximum noise power.

A mainstay at the famed Knitting Factory club, he was a member of the group Curlew, and also collaborated with the Dutch anarchist rock band the Ex on a pair of LPs, 1991's Scrabbling at the Lock and 1993's And the Weathermen Shrug Their Shoulders. After suffering from melanoma, Cora died in the south of France on April 9, 1998 at the age of 44. One month later, a benefit concert was held at the Knitting Factory with appearances by Fred Frith, George Cartwright and Zeena Parkins.
-- Jason Ankeny, All-Music Guide

Tom Cora, 44, New-Music Cellist With Flair for the Avant-Garde Tom Cora, a cellist, composer and improviser who was a mainstay of the new-music scene in New York City, died on Thursday at a hospital in Draguignam, in the south of France, where he lived with his wife and son. He was 44.

The cause was melanoma, said his brother, Henry Corra.

Mr. Cora, whose original surname was Corra, grew up in Richmond and took up the cello while an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. He studied under the vibraphonist Karl Berger at Creative Music Studios in Woodstock, N.Y., when
came to New York City in 1979. It was a ripe and chaotic moment for improvised music in Manhattan, well before the Knitting Factory provided a frequent venue for musicians like Mr. Cora, who were influenced by progressive rock, jazz and avant-garde composition and who were able to consolidate absurdist humor and structuralist thinking in the same composition.

Mr. Cora fell into a circle that included John Zorn, Eugene Chadbourne, Andrea Centazzo, Butch Morris and Fred Firth, and he became known for highly amplifying his cello and for playing sawed chords and percussive riffs on it as if it were an electric guitar. Best known as part of the long-running band Curlew, he also played with the groups Skeleton Crew and Third Person, and collaborated with the Dutch anarchist rock band The Ex.
--New York Times, Tuesday, April 14, 1998

Tom Cora - Gumption in Limbo
Year: 1980
Label: Sound Aspects
drop your jaw. *new link
mp3 192kbps | w/ cover (a slightly different one than above) | 60mb


Anonymous said...

the best there was

Bloody Holly said...

Thanks for the link!
You have a great blog; I linked you back!

Anonymous said...

amazed by this record.
thanx for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Oh.... thank you!!!! Love Tom Cora! Do you have the tribute, Hallelujah Anyway? or any of his live stuff at the Knitting Factory?

The Irate Pirate said...

this is the only cora solo album i have. i recently found The Ex + Tom Cora and a Curlew album at SkaFunkRastaPunk forums. but i would love to hear more at some point.

neil said...

Passed this on to a budding cellist.
Many thanks...