Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two Creative Voices Silenced

Adrienne Cooper died on Sunday December 25at the age of 65 and in the prime of his creative career. Arguably the finest interpreter of Yiddish music of her generation, Ms. Cooper had worked with numerous groups including Kapeleye, the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, the Klezmatics and Mikveh.  I had the honor of presenting Mikveh in concert at out local synagogue here in Middletown.  That ensemble, an all-star and all female group, lit up the night with the splendid musicianship but Ms. Cooper's forceful vocals and formidable stage presence was the highlight of the evening.

Along with pianist Zalman Mlotek, she created "Ghetto Tango: Wartime Yiddish Theater", a fascinating collection of songs from shows written in the ghettoes of Eastern Europe during World War II. She also co-wrote (with Jenny Romaine and Frank London) "The Memoirs Gluckl of Hameln", presented to acclaim in New York at the legendary La Mama Annex. Her most recent CD, "Enchanted: A New Generation of Yiddish Song" (Golden Horn Records), is a varied and wondrous collection of songs, ranging from songs from "..Gluckl.." to traditional pieces to sound collages. 

In addition to her performing career, Adrienne Cooper served as the Workman’s Circle’s external affairs officer for cultural programming, and had worked previously as the assistant director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. She won several prestigious awards including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice’s Risk Taker Award.

Adrienne Cooper sang with heart, emotion, fortitude and with great joy.  She will be greatly missed. For more information about her life and music, go to www.adriennecooper.com.

Saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator Sam Rivers passed away on Monday December 26 at the ago of 88.  His career spanned 6 decades but his rise to critical notice came in the early 1960s when he began performing with the young drummer Tony Williams. It was Williams, who joined Miles Davis classic mid-60s Quintet in 1964 (at the age of 17!) who recommended Rivers for the tenor saxophone role in the group.  He lasted for just a few months before Davis replaced with Wayne Shorter.  That did not curtail Rivers' career - he signed with Blue Note Records and released 4 Lps while playing as a sideman on numerous sessions.  In 1970, Rivers and his wife Beatrice (who died in 2005) opened Studio Rivbea in New York City and the performance space became the "hot spot" for the "new" music that grew out of the revolutionary sounds of John Coltrane and Chicago's AACM.  Rivers recorded a slew of sessions for Impulse Records and a number of smaller labels, including a series of duets with bassist Dave Holland on the Improvising Artists label.  He shared the front line with fellow reed player Anthony Braxton on Holland's wonderful 1973 ECM recording "Conference of the Birds."

Rivers also fronted the Studio Rivbea Orchestra culminating in a pair of strong recordings for RCA Victor (the last "major" label to release his music.)  In 1995, he created a masterful solo performance for the "Workshop Freie Musik" in Berlin, Germany - the FMP label issued 9 of the solo pieces as "Portrait: Sam Rivers" in 1997.After moving to Florida, he formed a trio with bassist Doug Mathews and percussionist (and tenor saxophonist) Anthony Cole, creating intense music and touring throughout the country.  The Trio worked closely with Steven Bernstein on his 2002 Tzadik release, "Disapora Blues", the trumpeter's imaginative rearrangements of Jewish cantorial melodies.

Over the last decade, Rivers appeared on CDs with NOJO (the Neufield-Occipinti Jazz Orchestra from Canada), on pianist Jason Moran's "Black Fire", and in a trio setting with percussionists Adam Rudolph and Harris Eisenstadt.

Sam Rivers did not rest on his laurels.  He was a "forward" thinker when it came to his music but did not shy away from working with anyone (he played in several ensembles led by Dizzy Gillespie for 4 years.) He could play "in", "out", through-composed music, totally improvised pieces, in solo settings, trio, big band - Sam Rivers made music and, over the years, influenced many people.  Not only musically but with his sense of business and independence.  For more information about his life and work, go to www.rivbea.com.

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