Elvin Jones, Al Kooper Receive Honorary Doctorates

Oct 8, 2001 12:00 PM, Editors


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Jazz drummer Elvin Jones and rock musician/songwriter/producer Al Kooper received honorary doctor of music degrees during Berklee College of Music's (Boston) 2001 Entering Student Convocation on September 7, 2001.

The two honorees helped to welcome Berklee's entering Class of 2005. Berklee College of Music president Lee Eliot Berk recounted many of Jones' and Kooper's impressive accomplishments as he presented each with their honorary doctor of music degrees.

Beginning with Jones, Berk said, "In the world of music, there are leaders and followers, innovators and imitators. Elvin Jones is both a leader and an innovator, and one of the most influential drummers in the history of jazz."

After receiving his honorary degree, Jones said, "I don't know what to say. Music is a universe that needs to be explored to the fullest. I wish you the best in your endeavors."

In 1960, Jones became a member of the John Coltrane Quartet. His work during his six-year association with Coltrane constitutes one of the most creative and innovative periods in the evolution of modern jazz. Among the classic recordings that feature Jones and Coltrane are Live at the Village Vanguard, Impressions, Live at Birdland and A Love Supreme. During this period, Jones developed a new role for jazz drummers, diverging from simply keeping the beat to becoming an equal, collaborative improviser. Aftering leaving Coltrane in 1966, Jones led a series of groups notable for their instrumentation. Most recently, he has worked with a quintet called Jazz Machine that features bassist David Pulphus, pianist Eric Lewis, saxophonist Pat LaBarbera and trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis.

Introducing Al Kooper, Berk said: "Al Kooper played a vital role in bringing some of the most noteworthy, roots-based rock music and musicians of the '60s and '70s to a vast audience. His work as a songwriter, session player and producer place him among the true giants of American popular music."

Kooper expressed his thanks after receiving his honorary degree and said to the audience, "When it came time for me to go to college, I had already received a certain amount of notoriety in music, but I wanted to learn more about what I had chosen to do with my life. I couldn't find the education that I needed. Back then, Berklee had a very jazz-oriented curriculum, which was over my head at the time. When I came here to teach in 1997, I found the curriculum that I had been looking for. I guess I was born too early, but you are not."

Al Kooper's first success came in 1959, at the age of 15, followed by his most productive period in the 1960s and 1970s. Kooper's biggest hist, "This Diamond Ring," which he wrote in the early '60s as an R&B song, became a hit for Gary Lewis and The Playboys and has since logged close to three million radio performances. Other credits include his signature organ part on the 1965 single "Like a Rolling Stone" on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisted album. This began a long association with Dylan, which led to a job producing Dylan's New Morning album. In the late '60s, Kooper recorded three critically acclaimed albums with the Blues Project and founded Blood, Sweat & Tears. After one album with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Kooper left the group and returned to playing sessions, backing superstars like Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Rolling Stones. Other credits include signing The Zombies to Columbia Records and then launching his own Sounds of the South label, which featured Kooper-produced albums for Lynyrd Skynyrd, B.B. King, The Tubes, Nils Lofgren and others. Most recently, he performed with Joe Walsh, John Mellencamp and Bob Dylan and recorded with his all-star band The Rekooperators.

For more on these honorees, visit www.berklee.edu.

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