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Tom Cora

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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, VA, 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 likeminded artists who 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 Curlew, Skeleton Crew, and the American/European aggregation Nimal, 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. The double-CD set Hallelujah, Anyway - Remembering Tom Cora was released on the Tzadik label in 1999. ~ Jason Ankeny

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