Lindsay Cooper, a modern composer and bassoonist for the 70s Rock in Opposition band Henry Cow left a legacy of amazing music before leaving this planet in 2013 after a long fight with MS. Two of her former band members joined a group of local musicians to perform a concert of some of her work at Mills College’s Littlefield Concert Hall. Fred Frith and Cooper were both members of the band Henry Cow, a band who invented new ways to combine rock and experimental music in the 70’s heyday of progressive rock.
Zena Parkins worked together with Cooper in the band News from Babel along with Dagmar Krause and Chris Cutler from Henry Cow. Parkins and Frith were also members of the groups Skeleton Crew with the amazing and unfortunately also departed Tom Cora. Perhaps to bring the unique collaboration together, Cora and Cooper collaborated as well, in a group called the Hat Shoes with Cora’s wife, Catherine Jauniaux, along with This Heat drummer Charles Hayward, Henry Cow saxophonist Tim Hodgkinson, Pere Ubu vocalist David Thomas and Chris Cochrane, a member of Parkins former band No Safety. The list of musicians above include some of the prolific musicians and composers of the past 40 plus years.
Another heavyweight band performing the music of Cooper tonight was Rova Saxophone Quartet. Rova Saxophone Quartet have long revolutionized the abstract jazz field with their ability to invent textures of rhythm combined with circular breathing style saxophone reminiscent of jazz greats like Steve Lacy and John Coltrane.
I first had the chance to see Frith and Parkins performing together at the Festival International Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Quebec in 1992. They performed in Frith’s piece Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire. At the same festival, I also saw Frith perform an improvised duet with Han Bennink, who was a member of Albert Ayler’s Dutch band. I took away some memories from Victo in 92. One was hanging in front of the old Grand Cafe without money for to buy a ticket to see Lars Holmer when two guys came out about 20 minutes into the set. One of them gave me their ticket and I went inside only to see Frith joining the Looping Home Orchestra as an unlisted guest. At the same festival Zeena Parkins also performed two great sets with Elliott Sharp’s Carbon and Orchestra Carbon.
Both Frith and Parkins continue to inspire by writing and recording great music when they aren’t doing their day jobs as professors in the music department for Mills College.
I also first saw Rova at FIMAV in 1997 with a larger Rova X8 band. This band is really always hard hitting improv that stands the test of time and has done so with their many hatArt/HatHut releases and the recently released title ZORN where the group plays the music of another improviser and collaborator with Frith and Parkins. Zorn and Frith were together in the band Naked City while Parkins and Zorn were together in the two releases Cobra and The Bribe.
More recently, Frith and Parkins have performed together in the band Cosa Brava, a band that also includes Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi from Sleepytime Gorrilla Museum.
I was fortunate to witness many great performances at VICTO with many collaborators Ms. Cooper. Towards the end of her career as a musician she wrote the piece Oh Moscow, which was released on Les Disques Victo in 1991 and was a member of the Feminist improvising group with film director and screenwriter Sally Potter.
It’s great to live close enough to Mills in order witness such a great tribute to Lindsay Cooper.
I never had the opportunity to see any Ms. Cooper performances in my life, but tonight, for a moment it made me feel as if I had.