Hopscotch 18

Avatarof invented-from-necessity instruments, Cooper-Moore is able to put all of his talents to good use on this 10-track CD.

Those who only know him as a risk-taking pianist in bands like In Order To Survive will discover the down-home side of his personality as he improvises on traditional Southern instruments like the one-string diddley-bo, mouth bow and banjo. Those — usually in New York — who have seen him use these skiffle band ingredients in folkloric settings will marvel at his skills at piano, drums-skins and cymbal, as well as a vocalist.

AMERICA isn’t a one-man show in any way, though. In full-partnership is Assif Tsahar, on hand to play tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and classical guitar. With instrumental smarts wedded to populist protest material, the CD comes across as a weird amalgam of the ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC and SILENT TONGUES. Or imagine Albert Ayler, Dock Boggs, Phil Ochs, Cannonball Adderley and Curtis Mayfield doing a gig together.

Throughout, there are all sorts of odd juxtapositions. The second version of “Lament for Trees” for instance, evolves from a mournful ballad with echoes of “Three Blind Mice” to something that showcases ultra-modern reed screeches, altissimo cries and flutter tonguing from Tsahar’s tenor. All the while Moore is providing the rhythm with shimmering, double bass-like diddley-bo vibrations. Or take the title tune, where to the accompaniment of tough reed lines from Tsahar and a relentless synth-like beat, lyrics like “America do you think about the lives that you have stolen” are shouted out by Moore with the intensity of a 1960s folk-protest singer.

At times, frailing, Appalachian Mountain banjo licks ricochet, at others, somehow the stringed instrument takes on the properties of a whining bottleneck guitar. On the same piece Tsahar adds legato clarinet textures and gut-string guitar accompaniment until Moore explodes all over his axe with harsh, dissonant plucks — making it sound as if it has as many strings as an oud.

Spurred by reed multiphonics, Moore can also use just drum tops and a cymbal to replicate a veritable Art Blakey-like percussion fest that meets Tsahar’s squeals, snorts and irregular vibrations head on. In other places, woody, legato breaths from the bass clarinet join trills that aurally resemble penetrating piccolo timbres and are perhaps created by a vertically blown recorder.

Crisp, experimental textures aren’t ignored, either. The more than nine-minute “Wounded Knee” finds the saxman spitting out split tones to achieve higher, more varied timbres. Meanwhile Moore ranges around the piano keyboard using contrasting dynamics and focused note clusters to centre and pinpoint certain patterns, while strumming chords with the other hand.

Elsewhere, the pianist will start a repetitive melody with his right hand, only to add colorful asides with his left. Cadenza fills provide the sort of weight needed, so that the reedist has a base on which he can comfortably solo. Later Moore seesaws between modal-like tremolos and a boogie-woogie feel as the sax output wavers from treetop-high textures to a final reed squeak.

From beginning to end AMERICA is both an impressive socio-anthropological, as well as a musical statement.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. America 2. Back Porch Chill 3. Tuscarora’s Cry 4. 12th Avenue Messenger 5. Lament for Trees 6. The Tortoise & The Buzzard 7. No Cracklin No Bread 8. Lament for Trees 9. Beyond The Years 10. Wounded Knee

Personnel: Assif Tsahar (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and classical guitar); Cooper-Moore (piano, banjo, diddley-bo, mouth bow, drum-skins, cymbal and vocal)