In my earlier post about J. Lawrence Cook, I carelessly said he was a
bachelor. Someone corrected that error, but to atone for it I offer
the following two quotes shedding more light on the man and his life.
From Variety, April 21, 1976:
Jean Lawrence Cook, 76, composer-pianist, died April 2 of a heart
attack at his home in Mt. Vernon, New York. He was a writer-member of
the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
Cook worked in both the popular and symphonic field and made more than
20,000 piano roll recordings over four decades starting in 1920.
He is survived by his wife Edith, a son, daughter, and
From Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians,
by Eileen Southern (Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1982):
Cook J(ean) Lawrence. Jazz pianist (b. 14 July 1899 in Athens,
Tennessee; d. 2 April 1976 in Mt. Vernon, New York).
He obtained his musical training at the Haines Institute in Augusta,
Georgia (1914-19) and studied further at Columbia University
(1926-28). He settled in New York during the 1920s and because of
his skills in making rolls for player pianos picked up the nickname
"Piano Roll Cook." He was one of the first black recording artists
hired by the QRS Company (Quality Reigns Supreme) beginning in 1922,
and he remained with the company for many years.
With the decline of interest in piano rolls during the 1930s, he
eventually had to leave the music field in order to earn a living,
but he continued to make "J. Lawrence Cook Rolls" for collectors.
He also continued to work for his old employer, the Imperial
Industrial Company [Max Kortlander's incorporation of the QRS
operation], on a part-time basis.
About 1963 there was a revival of public interest in piano rolls,
and Cook found employment with the Aeolian Roll Company, which
brought back player pianos in 1957. A highlight of 1963 for Cook
was his performance on a player piano of a Gershwin performance
on a player piano of a Gershwin performance of "That Certain
Feeling" with the New York Philharmonic Society orchestra, Andre
Kostelanetz conducting, at a Lewissohn Stadium concert.
Cook continued to make piano rolls for Aeolian until his death.
Cook published two manuals: J. Lawrence Cook's Collection of
Modernistic Jazz Arrangements for Piano, and Modern Popular Piano
[ Is it true that he never quit his job at the U. S. Post Office?
[ -- Robbie