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Mike Cooper (UK/Italy) - Auckland's Wine Cellar

Mike Cooper (UK/Italy) Live In Auckland. Wine Cellar

St Kevins Arcade. Thurs 16th March. With Dean Roberts & Phil Dadson.

For the past 40 year, Mike Cooper has been an international musical explorer, performing and recording, solo and in a number of inspired groupings and a variety of genres. Initially a folk-blues guitarist and singer songwriter his work has diversified to include improvised and electronic music, live music for silent films, radio art and sound installations. He is also a music journalist, writing features for magazines, particularly on Pacific music and musicians, a visual artist, film and video maker, collector of Hawaiian shirts and appears on more than 60 records to date.

"Cooper stands out as the man who truly made something of his own out of the country-blues..." (The Guardian)

Starting in the mid sixties, a solo country blues singer and slide guitar player, he was one of the handful of acoustic players who pioneered the British Blues Boom, playing with and alongside such blues legends as Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. His 1969 l.p. Oh Really!? is widely acclaimed as one of the best acoustic blues albums of the period.

"...a quantum leap into Folk - Jazz..." (Folk Roots)

In the early 1970s he recorded five solo albums which chronicle, through his own songwriting, a fascinating shift from pure blues through to free jazz. Collaborating with jazz, improvising and avant-garde musicians, in particular South Africans Dudu Pakwana, Harry Miller, Louis Maholo and Mongezi Feza, Zimbabwean composer and arranger Mike Gibbs and British saxophonist Mike Osborne he produced perhaps some of the first and finest rogue folk. 30 years later these recordings, along with those by Wizz Jones, Roy Harper, The Incredible String Band and Davy Graham have inspired the recent 'Free Folk' explosion in the USA, with Thurston Moore and Jim O'rourke from Sonic Youth and The No-Neck Blues Band confessing to be fans.

"...featured in the pioneering New Musical Express Book Of Rock in the mid-70's...Mike Cooper may never have matched the commercial success of some of his contemporaries, but he can boast an impressive body of work that continues to grow." (David Wells - Paper and Smoke liner notes)

In the late 1970's he began to develop a parallel career and establish himself on the avant-garde and free-improvised music scene, working initially with members of the London Musicians Collective, such as Keith Rowe, David Toop, Steve Beresford, Max Eastley, Paul Burwell, Eddie Prevost, dancer Jo-Anna Pyne. and vocalist Viv Corringham. The Recedents, a trio formed with legendary sax player Lol Coxhill and drummer Roger Turner is now in its third decade. He continues to work with these and other international improvisers.

"As both a performer and writer he has occupied an unusual niche, being willing to engage with both western experimental and so called Roots music styles (such as Hawaiian lap-steel guitar playing) and critical ideas about these circulating in various journalistic and scholarly contexts." (Perfect Beat)

In 1987, together with the extraordinary French slide guitarist Cyril Lefebvre and incorporating the talents of Lol Coxhill, Steve Beresford and Max Eastley, they formed the Uptown Hawaiians to play and record a repertoire of Hawaiian, Exotica and other Lap Steel Guitar musics, re-affirming a life-long passion for Pacific music and cultures, both old, new and imagined. They still play together often with Paris based Tahitian musicians and dancers and the 'Ukulele Tiki Party'. A more recent Pacific collaboration is with Richard Nunns from New Zealand, an improviser who plays traditional Maori instruments. Travelling often through the Pacific, Mike has written extensively on Hawaiian Slack Key guitar styles and performers. He also wrote the Hawaii chapter for the Rough Guide to World Music.

Ambient Electronic Exotica is the genre and subtitle of recent solo performances, often accompanied with film or video, and three c.d. releases, 'Kiribati', 'Globe Notes' and 'Rayon Hula'. Ambient recordings made in the Pacific, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, treated electronically, combined with acoustic and electronic instruments and re-located to produce 'virtual soundscapes'. "....a masterpiece of contemporary exotica." (Rayon Hula reviewed in the Wire).

Ten years of performing live music for silent films at festivals around the world has proven a rich and rewarding way of combining a variety of different musical styles and of seducing people into listening to music they might not normally encounter. The current programme includes Tabu and Sunrise by F.W. Murnau, Nanook Of The North - Robert Flaherty, Man With A Movie Camera - Dziga Vertov. Sergei Eisenstein classics Strike and October, South by Frank Hurley and from 1958 Last Paradise by Fulco Quilici as well as his own scratch video 'Stolen Moments'.

In 2000 he started HIPSHOT to produce limited edition cdRs from his studio in Rome where he currently lives. The first release Kiribati was chosen as one of the best 'Outer Limits' cds of the year by the prestigious UK magazine The WIRE.

After recording an album with British folk guitarist Ian A. Anderson in 1968 and releasing his debut solo album for the Pye label in 1969, UK guitarist Mike Cooper went on to record a series of 4 semi-legendary albums for the Dawn label in the years 1970-72 (he later went on to record more experimental material for the Nato label in France).

Do I Know You? features Mike on guitar, slide guitar and vocals, ...An exquisite, flowing merge of folk-blues, ...this is a mesmerising album which will appeal to fans of the more extrapolative end of the UK folk scene (Pentangle, Wizz Jones, Davey Graham, etc.).

Trout Steel followed in late 1970 and featured a more expanded line up with more experimental & jazz influences. Mike's farewell to straight folk/blues forms is a mindfucker of unbelievable breadth &power. A huge cast of UK folk & jazz heavies play their asses off while Mike sings his dolorous yet joyful songs. Intelligence &spiritual knowing pour forth from this amazing post-genre communion. The animal you wanted that couldn't get into the world.
(Michael Ehlers. Forced Exposure on-line catalogue at

MARTIN SIMPSON - Singer/ Guitarist.

And then I started to see people like Mike Cooper...and my socks were removed ... especially by Mike Cooper because he had his own style, that nice rolling raggy thing ...I think he was a great singer. He still is a great singer - hes a born-again blueser, isnt he ?

One of the greats. What can we say but 'thank god for Mike.' Extremely talented and enlightened guitarist and songwriter who pushes the boundaries of music... at the forefront of British folk avant-garde stands this man.
(Michael Ehlers. Forced Exposure on-line catalogue at

...It was Mike Cooper and Jo-Ann Kelly who really led the field. Mike Cooper virtually dominated the bottleneck guitar scene during this period, paving the way for a whole resurgence in (acoustic) slide playing in the seventies. (Jerry Gilbert - Melody Maker).

Guitarist Mike Cooper has been wedding improvised music to blues and rock since the beginning of the amazing amalgam of sounds, drawing on the blues...and various Mediterranean traditions...a melting pot of ideas and creativity; outrageous, moving and joyful. (Mojo Magazine - Review - Avant Roots CD)

TERRY CLARKE - Singer/Songwriter.

A lot of my morality and attitudes towards making music comes from Mike Cooper. It was once said of Kevin Ayres, that he is too intelligent to be a star, that is true of Mike too, I think. The only person I have ever met who is anything like him is Butch Hancock. I relate very closely to both of them. Hes a very important person.

...A musician capable of being coherent and convincing when playing blues, Hawaiian or free improvised music...leaving his personal mark on everything he touches... (La Repubblica - Italy)

" Mike Cooper is one of those musicians in danger of falling through the gaps in musical histories. A multifaceted guitarist who patently recognises no need to respect limits or boundaries, he has made idiosyncratic inroads into folk, blues, jazz, Greek music, HipHop, Hawaiian music, free improvisation...As the list goes on, the categories lose meaning.


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