Meet the New Guy, Kory Cook

Meet the New Guy

KRTU Welcomes New Music Director Kory Cook  


Kory Cook in booth

 Since the lights went to full brightness in our jazz house in 2002, KRTU's family has grown and thrived. Our table has been surrounded by friendly faces, some still here, some of whom have gone on to start jazz families of their own. We've even brought new members to the table, which is always a time for celebration. This is one such occasion.


Meet Kory Cook, KRTU's new Music Director and Announcer. Like some of those before him, he is an active musician whose love of playing is matched only by his love of the art. He's played with musicians from Alex Coke to the Sons of Hercules to the Central Time Jazz Collective. He's been in radio for almost 15 years and has led production on over 600 live performances.


I came to know Kory first through Jay Trachtenberg, longtime broadcaster and supervisor during Kory's Assistant Music Directorship at KUT 90.5 FM in Austin. Jay spoke about Kory's appreciation of jazz, his spirit and the energy he brings to his work in music. He told me that Kory wasn't a "buttoned-down" type of guy, but that his actions speak for themselves personally and professionally.


During my ensuing conversations with Kory, it became clear that music in his blood.  With an appreciation for authentic art - the quality that defines straight ahead, improvisational jazz - he has a critical, yet open ear. He is a steward of traditional styles, yet he seeks to explore where the music is going. In short, as the KRTU directorship is assumed by Kory Cook, a connoisseur of jazz and an experienced radio man, our listeners can expect that the KRTU sound will be well tended, with ears wide open.


Who is Kory Cook? 

Genealogically speaking, I come from the land of the Dutch. Both great-great-grandfathers were musicians. So is my father. Drummers to be specific. Some get the terms confused. Me? Simple. Then complex. Farm-raised with a yearning for the city. Multi-dimensional at best.


When your former colleagues read, "Kory Cook joins Jazz 91.7", what are they going to think? 

They'll ask, "what have they got themselves into? I thought he was supposed to be on the road!" But they'll know I'm where I belong. They're well aware that I'm a bit of a fanatic about the music.  


What about your past bandmates? 

A real job? They'll understand, although I think I might've broken some hearts already. Most of my rock-n-roll friends can't fathom the idea of listening to jazz all day. I'm still trying to turn my good friend and bandmate Randy from Leatherbag onto Wayne Shorter.


Why did you become a drummer? 

It's in the family lineage. My parents met in the mid-'60s and formed a rock duo. Dad on drums and mom on the Hammond B3. Watching my dad play was a huge part of it. He nailed those drums in a Buddy Rich, four-on-the-floor kinda way. But it really started when I was eight years old. My older brother invited his friends over to jam one day. The drummer brought his kit, set 'em up and started playing. I knew I could do it better, so I asked to take over the kit and the rest is history.


More important: cymbals or hi-hat? 

Well...a hi-hat is still a cymbal. But if you're talking ride or crash versus hi-hats, I can't pick just one. One complements the other.


What's been your most rewarding experience as a musician? 

I could try and attribute it to one show or experience, or talk about individuals involved, but it's really those spontaneous and unplanned musical moments that force you to realize why you're doing this in the first place. Many times I've joined artists I've never met on-stage or in a practice space. After a few minutes of playing, and if there's a chemistry there, indescribable things can start to happen with the music. You're not quite sure how it's all coalescing, but nevertheless, something is building and happening and it starts to create itself. And that can be incredibly rewarding. The time I performed in a percussion ensemble playing the experimental compositions of Eugene Chadbourne was an absolute delight. Backing Roky Erickson after zero preparation. That's what I'm talking about.


Are there sharp differences between your jazz audiences and your folk audiences? 

I think both genres seem to have a portion of their audience that shuns the modernization of the music. In jazz, it may be too avant-garde or experimental. In folk, it may be too pop or rock sounding, with songwriters turning their back on tradition for a new sound. There's a purist for every genre, but I think it comes down to a matter of taste.


What was life like on the road? 

You spend about 23 hours of the day anticipating a single, exhilarating experience that only lasts about an hour or so. Lots of reading, staring out the windows of cars and airplanes. I really enjoy traveling to different cities, talking to the locals, soaking up the vibes of places I've never been.


Tell me that story again about your buddy being mistaken for Victor Wooten in New York. 

Ah yes. I met a bass player named David in NYC many Marches ago. I was attending the Drummer's Collective. He was at the Bassist's Collective. Bassist extraordinaire Ron Carter was set to play one night in Harlem. David never heard of Ron Carter, so without asking how someone could go through life playing bass and never hearing of Carter, I jumped in a cab with him and headed to Harlem to see Carter's trio with Mickey Roker on drums. The show was sold out, but somehow, we were seated up front almost instantly after entering the club. Without asking any questions, we soaked up the set and enjoyed every bit. Shortly after the show, we were exiting our table when Ron Carter himself came up and gave my buddy David a huge hug. A man standing next to Ron whispered in my ear, "he thinks he's Victor Wooten, let him go with it" and giggled. I guess it pays to be somebody at a jazz club in NY, or at least look like somebody. 


What's the last thing that played in your iPod? Any favorite albums that travel with you?

William Parker Quartet's "Petit Oiseau." Just listened to the whole thing last night, twice. Also, I try to keep a copy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Rip Rig and Panic" in both my car and on the stereo at home. The Who "Sells Out."



Finish this sentence: Pat Metheny's scathing commentary about Kenny G was _____________. 

Hilarious. Pat Metheny once told me that jazz was ruined in the '70s by the Sex Pistols, then further ruined in the '90s by Kurt Cobain, so there's some bitterness there. His explanation was that both the Sex Pistols and Nirvana made it OK for young players to dumb down their guitar playing because it was cool. Although I find his comments amusing, I don't think Pat needs to worry too much about the success of another musician, justified or not. There are too many injustices in the world to try and analyze.


What excites you about working in jazz radio, particularly at KRTU? 

I think that KRTU is one of the last bastions of true jazz radio programming in the United States. Jazz is such a rich and diverse genre, and the state of radio continues to evolve as the music evolves. Jazz radio is not just about listening, but about learning. I feel honored to be a part of the experience as the station moves forward. Oh ... and I get to put my vinyl to good use.


What has been most rewarding about your work in the noncommercial side of the industry? 

Introducing new sounds and ideas to a growing audience that truly listens. The commercial side is all about how much revenue can be generated from what's being produced, plain and simple. In the noncommercial side, I've been able to provide culturally viable information for people to learn from and be inspired by.


What's the one thing you want KRTU members to know about you? 

As a jazz musician, listener and fan, I've been personally committed to exploring the past, present and future of jazz. I plan to bring what I know to KRTU while learning from others who share my interests and passion.


Where do you think the genre is headed? What should we listen for in the coming years? 

Notable present-day jazz artists will continue to embrace a more pop aesthetic in their music. Meanwhile, world music and an international influence will play a huge part in the ongoing development of jazz. Jazz as a term will become even more impossible to define, and that's not a bad thing.


To you, what is jazz? 

Like life ... a four-letter word. Really, though. We can take all the order and structure we strive for in the world and in our own individual lives, and all along maintain the knowledge that freedom to break away from the structure at any given time is always there. It's ultimately what you want to do with your life and how spontaneous you want to make it. That's what I hear in jazz and what it is to me.


KRTU Music Director and Chief Announcer Kory Cook can be reached at 210-999-8151 or