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MMD > Archives > March 1998 > 1998.03.09 > 08Prev  Next

J. Lawrence Cook
By Matthew Caulfield

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
   three granddaughters.

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

Matthew Caulfield

 [ Is it true that he never quit his job at the U. S. Post Office?
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Tue 10 Mar 1998, 03:07:31 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Cook, J, Lawrence

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