Here's a birthday nod to the late Tom Cora, improvising cellist of out-rock, free-jazz, underground experimental and avant-garde styles. He modified and prepared his cello, often playing it violently like a guitar and through loud amplification.
From Richmond, Virginia, he was originally a drummer before moving to jazz guitar in the DC area. Picking up the cello in college, he studied with Karl Berger and moved to NYC in '79. He quickly joined the rising Downtown avant-garde/improv scene, touring with Eugene Chadbourne and forming Curlew with George Cartwright & Bill Laswell and others.
In '82 he formed the improvising duo (or perhaps "double solo"?) Skeleton Crew with Fred Frith. In '86 he started a solo career, giving concerts in North America, Europe and Japan and playing for dancers and scoring music for film, including the '96 score for the classic silent flick Man With A Movie Camera.
In 1990 he formed Third Person with Samm Bennett and a revolving third member. That same year he started his life-lasting association with one of my very favorite bands in the world, Dutch anarchist/experimentalist punk/improv/world music ensemble The Ex. This is the point where I became a Cora fan, because I was (and am) really into The Ex. He made a few records with them and did over a hundred shows with them before Cora's death in France, at 44, from melanoma.
In addition to those named above, he also collaborated with John Zorn, Butch Morris, David Moss, Chris Cutler, Zeena Parkins, HP Zinker, Duck & Cover, Toshinori Kondo, Don Byron, Roof, Hans Reichel, Richard Teitelbaum, Peter Kowald and Cora's wife Catherine Jauniaux (among many others). His music was just as influenced by Eastern European and Turkish folk musics as it was progressive rock, free jazz and avant-garde. He was also a bassist and builder of various instruments.