Jazz drummer Elvin Jones and rock musician/songwriter/producer AlKooper received honorary doctor of music degrees during Berklee Collegeof 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 ofJones’ and Kooper’s impressive accomplishments as he presented eachwith their honorary doctor of music degrees.
Beginning with Jones, Berk said, “In the world of music, there areleaders and followers, innovators and imitators. Elvin Jones is both aleader and an innovator, and one of the most influential drummers inthe history of jazz.”
After receiving his honorary degree, Jones said, “I don’t know whatto say. Music is a universe that needs to be explored to the fullest. Iwish you the best in your endeavors.”
In 1960, Jones became a member of the John Coltrane Quartet. Hiswork during his six-year association with Coltrane constitutes one ofthe most creative and innovative periods in the evolution of modernjazz. Among the classic recordings that feature Jones and Coltrane areLive at the Village Vanguard, Impressions, Live atBirdland and A Love Supreme. During this period, Jonesdeveloped a new role for jazz drummers, diverging from simply keepingthe beat to becoming an equal, collaborative improviser. Afteringleaving Coltrane in 1966, Jones led a series of groups notable fortheir instrumentation. Most recently, he has worked with a quintetcalled Jazz Machine that features bassist David Pulphus, pianist EricLewis, saxophonist Pat LaBarbera and trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis.
Introducing Al Kooper, Berk said: “Al Kooper played a vital role inbringing some of the most noteworthy, roots-based rock music andmusicians of the ’60s and ’70s to a vast audience. His work as asongwriter, session player and producer place him among the true giantsof American popular music.”
Kooper expressed his thanks after receiving his honorary degree andsaid to the audience, “When it came time for me to go to college, I hadalready received a certain amount of notoriety in music, but I wantedto learn more about what I had chosen to do with my life. I couldn’tfind the education that I needed. Back then, Berklee had a veryjazz-oriented curriculum, which was over my head at the time. When Icame here to teach in 1997, I found the curriculum that I had beenlooking 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, followedby his most productive period in the 1960s and 1970s. Kooper’s biggesthist, “This Diamond Ring,” which he wrote in the early ’60s as anR&B song, became a hit for Gary Lewis and The Playboys and hassince logged close to three million radio performances. Other creditsinclude his signature organ part on the 1965 single “Like a RollingStone” on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisted album. This began along association with Dylan, which led to a job producing Dylan’sNew Morning album. In the late ’60s, Kooper recorded threecritically 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, backingsuperstars like Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Rolling Stones. Othercredits include signing The Zombies to Columbia Records and thenlaunching his own Sounds of the South label, which featuredKooper-produced albums for Lynyrd Skynyrd, B.B. King, The Tubes, NilsLofgren and others. Most recently, he performed with Joe Walsh, JohnMellencamp and Bob Dylan and recorded with his all-star band TheRekooperators.
For more on these honorees, visit www.berklee.edu.