March 25, 2010
There are performances that remind you what are the basic and most important essences of making and listening to musicthe sheer and innocent joy of playfulness, the healing power of such an emotional communication, the communal feeling of participating in a magical ritual, and the feeling of inspiring elation that lasts after the concert. The recent Digital Primitives trio show in Jerusalem was one of these great ones. It really does not matter how many times you have seen this trio beforethe magic is still there.
The group is led by multi-instrumentalist, instrument-builder and inventor Cooper-Moorea modern-day shamanand brothers-in-arms Assif Tsahar, reeds, and Chad Taylor, percussion. They began this performance with a quiet and restrained meditation with Tsahar on the bass clarinet, Taylor laying down propulsive rhythm and Cooper-Moore playing the mouth violin, stretching the musical envelope to funky regions and then to Indian-tinged variations.
They began to take off with a distorted cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Tsahar played a fractured version of the melody, while Cooper-Moore, now on the twinger (his one-string bass instrument), and Taylor pushed him through subtle variations of the rhythm. Soon all three began a muscular blow out, but in their own special way. Tsahar referenced his assured big-horn playing with brief quoting of acrobatic Sonny Rollins standards and spiced it with Ethiopian sweet modes. Cooper-Moore, still with his twinger, played on it with his hands, sticks and a bow, demonstrating how much can be done with such a seemingly simple instrument with tons of imagination and musicality. Taylor is a sensitive drummer who can alter and shift the course of the music with a simple gesture.
After another meditation, this time Taylor led with the African thumb piano m'bira, Cooper-Moore plugged his three-stringed banjo to to an amp and began to play distorted power chords. For a few surprising seconds, he sounded like he was tracing the blues roots of Led Zeppelin's guitarist Jimmy Page or late guitarist Sonny Sharrock, but, obviously, it was all his own. He led the trio into another tight and ecstatic improvisation that encompassed not only jazz, but funk and rhythm n' blues and sounded as if the Digital Primitives was an organic extension of the great bands of Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. They concluded the concert with a moving, beautiful, straight-forward prayer that Cooper-Moore wrote to David S. Ware back in the 1980s, Cooper-Moore now on a wooden flute, Tsahar back on the bass clarinet and Taylor caressing the drums, before their traditional a capella anthem, "I'm So Happy To Be Alive." Cooper-Moore organized the joyful audience into a big choir while dancing with Tsahar, leaving all happy, smiling.