After adopting a low profile following the breakup of William Parker’s In Order to Survive band, Cooper-Moore returns very high profile in duet with leather-lunged reed man Assif Tsahar, who also brings acoustic guitar. Cooper-Moore, known for a pianistic range that allows him to be elegiac or shred, adds his homemade diddley-bo and mouth bow, as well as banjo, drums and cymbals, to enliven the sound. A surprisingly rich presentation of American culture results, all referencing back to Cooper-Moore’s opening statement, “America.”
Opening with a vocal reminiscent of Captain Beefheart on “I Want to Booglerize You Baby,” Cooper-Moore makes withering observations, asks tough questions and adds to a growing list of eloquent and outspoken jazz releases. Tsahar sprays tenor and occasionally explores the blues ribbon running through the piece with low round ornamentation. By the time Cooper-Moore testifies with Tsahar in the upper registers, the song turns to a redemption on a train. The performance itself sounds like a rolling boxcar, thanks to Cooper-Moore’s riff-hugging diddley-bo.
He plays riff-keeper again on “Back Porch Chill,” this time keeping a plucked banjo motif going with slight variations for Tsahar’s sweet, bluesy bass clarinet. Possibly invoking the 1711 North Carolina Indian attack, “Tuscarora’s Cry” begins with Cooper-Moore on wooden flute, then c-flute, while Tsahar creates ripples on bass clarinet. Tsahar blows meaty tenor lines on “12th Avenue Messengers,” nearly kicking into energy music with Cooper-Moore urging him on playing drum skins and cymbals.
The tragic ballad “Lament for Trees” shows both musicians’ grace with a beautiful melody. Cooper-Moore’s piano supports Tsahar’s romantic ruminations on tenor, while exploring on his own. Sounding like the Mississippi delta in Nigeria, “The Tortoise and the Buzzard” has Tsahar on acoustic guitar, and Cooper-Moore working hard on the mouth bow. “No Cracklin No Bread” again pairs the men on tenor and drum skins, but this outing lets Tsahar test out his bluesy side.
“Wounded Knee” brings them back on tenor and piano, and the two create a mini suite. Getting right to the point, both come out swinging with Cooper-Moore mixing fisted clusters and mind warping runs, Tsahar justifying his reputation as a hard blowing cat. Cooper-Moore drops down and Tsahar joins him in a spacious reverie that finds its way back into the furnace.
Ironically, at times the music calls to mind the Parker/Drake/Morris recording Eloping With the Sun with its complex simplicity and dusty sense of wonder. But that was Africa and this is America , and may we all be so free.
Personnel: Cooper-Moore, piano, diddley-bo, banjo, mouth bow; drum skins and cymbal; Assif Tsahar, tenor sax, bass clarinet, classical guitar