[Fwd: India Cooke Interview, Part 2]

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#1 Mon, 1997-05-19 14:39
James L Kirchmer
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[Fwd: India Cooke Interview, Part 2]

Here's part two of the India Cooke interview, as promised. :) If you're curious about part one, you'll have to look in the digest archives, as I don't have part one saved anywhere....

owner-epulse-l@majordomo.netcom.com wrote:

--- HANDS OFF

epulse interviews jazz violinist India Cooke, part 2 of 2

epulse: Playing improvisational music is pretty risky. Sometimes it just spins so far out of control that everybody -- the musicians and listeners -- gets lost. That doesn't happen on 'RedHanded.' You manage to balance structure and improvisation so well that your music has an edge and urgency as well as a strong spiritual quality.

Cooke: That's exactly how I'm feeling about my music these days. Playing is like being on a spiritual journey. All my life I wasn't sure I was supposed to be a musician. That's the vocational track I was on, but I wasn't sure if it was right for me. Of course, it's the only thing I know how to do. I don't type, I don't have a computer. I used to think, maybe I can wait tables. It's only been recently that I've been telling myself, well, now, India, making this album means that you really are supposed to be a musician. So deal with it. Enjoy it. So that's what I'm doing. I'm trying to develop a sense of having intuitive conversations with the musicians I perform with.

epulse: What's your favorite track?

Cooke: "6/23." It's a fun piece. It reminds me of my time with Sun Ra. He was a genius at pulling together all the individuals in his Arkestra to make them into a unit. I wanted to achieve that with my smaller group. Even though "6/23" is the most charted of all the tunes on the CD, this piece has a lot of elasticity. We all bounce off the musical fragments and fill in the colors. That's another reason why this band I'm working with is so great. Each musician is also a composer who contributes his compositional expertise and texture to the improvisations. "6/23" is pretty much a standard jazz form with a head and solo sections. But because these guys are all in tune with new music, when they improvise they spiral their solos out a lot further than a bebop player. We go all the way to the stratosphere on this number.

epulse: What's the story behind "Logan's Reel"?

Cooke: That tune refers to my Irish roots. Logan is my mother's family name. It's also my brother's name. I wrote that piece for him. I used an Irish reel feeling I had swimming around inside my head. My brother's been reeled throughout his life. He's had a rough time, but he's making his way through it. The reel is the painful yet joyful dance I see him going through.

epulse: What about "Ra Storm"?

Cooke: I think of Sun. His passion and storm. On one level, it's an homage to him. This piece comes from an image. The setting is a desert. On the distant horizon there's a storm ready to strike. I see nomadic people and camels settling down for the night in preparation. It's a beautiful scene, but there's a sense of an approaching storm.

epulse: How did you meet Sun Ra?

Cooke: It all has to do with my cat Sri. He's still alive, but back in 1990 my vet thought he was dying. I tried everything, from crystals to prayer, to keep him alive. Years earlier I had seen a television show with a clip of Sun Ra and his band. I remember thinking then, "Who are these crazy folks? It'd be fun to join up with them." But that was when I was doing the Bach, Brahms and Beethoven thing. I forgot all about it. But when Sri was dying I read that the Sun Ra Arkestra was playing in Oakland at Koncepts Cultural Gallery. I had tried everything else to save my cat's life except doing what I knew how to do best. Now, I've never had much confidence or courage to just get up on stage and sit in with a group. But that day was different.

epulse: What did you do?

Cooke: I got my violin and amp and went to Koncepts early. Sun Ra was there doing interviews and talking to people. I waited in line to see him. Finally it was my turn. I introduced myself and told him I played the violin. Tears streamed down my face. I said, "I'd love to play with you. I'd love to express something that's important to me." But Sun said nothing. He just looked at me almost as if he were looking through me. By that time, the first set of the evening was ready to begin.

I thought to myself, fine, at least I tried. It was a sold-out show, so I stood at the side of the stage to watch. The next thing I knew someone from the band told me that Sun Ra wanted me onstage right up front. So I played. It was my cry to the universe. I was able to pray through my music for the first time. Everyone in the Arkestra was happy for me. They shook hands with me and hugged me. I told them I would cook dinner for them the next time they came to town. Well, Sri healed, and a short time later I got a call asking me if I wanted to go on tour to Europe as a member of the Arkestra. --DAN OUELLETTE [!]