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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

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  • Todd S. Jenkins wrote on January 23, 2008 report

    When Coursil was teaching French in the early 1970s, one of his students was a young man named John Zorn. Zorn found out that his instructor was a musician, and Coursil invited him to one of his downtown gigs. It was at that moment that Zorn began his lifelong fascination with cutting-edge improvised music.

    In 2004, as I was wrapping up research on Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia, I became curious as to whatever happened to Mr. Coursil. I did a bit of hunting and discovered that he was teaching Francophone studies at Cornell University, as a visiting professor from his homeland of Martinique. I contacted Jacques and verified that he was, indeed, the same man who had recorded for BYG way back when. In our short e-mail exchange, Jacques stated that he would love to get back into music someday. He returned to Martinique shortly thereafter, his visiting tenure at Cornell completed.

    Following that exchange, I sent a note to John Zorn at Tzadik, letting him know that I had found his old teacher and mentor at Cornell. John sent me back an excited note and said that he would contact Coursil. About a year later, along came Minimal Brass, on Zorn's label. Coursil showed that his musical curiosity hadn't dwindled an ounce over the course of a quarter-century, and he continues to innovate today.

    - Todd S. Jenkins
    Contributor, AAJ, Down Beat, Route 66 Magazine, American Songwriter, etc.