Cooper-Moore is best known as a wild and woolly post-Cecil Taylor pianist, but he’s also carved out a niche on “primitive” instruments, tapping into the primordial source of blues-based traditions and knocking it on its ass. That's his focus on Digital Primitives, the eponymous debut by his trio with Israeli reedist Assif Tsahar (who released the record on his Hopscotch imprint) and former Chicagoan Chad Taylor. There are certainly moments where improvisation directs the show, but the most beguiling material employs some heavy groove action.
On the funky, syncopated opener, “Turn It Up,” Cooper-Moore exploits the fuzzy pitch control of the fretless banjo, plucking out a low-end, bass-like line that slides microtonally above and below the written parts, while on other pieces he just lays down bass tones that bubble and scald rhythmically. Some of the material, like "Electric Garden," has a more meditative feel, where gnarled tenor sax fragments, hypnotic kalimba, glitchy electronics, and the occasional twang of a mouth bow coalesce into a wonderfully drifty exploration.
The trio recently performed at the Dirty Three-curated installment of All Tomorrow’s Parties in England; according to Taylor, Nick Cave caught their set and was impressed enough to ask them to open for Grinderman’s Chicago gig at Metro on Wednesday. I imagine the city’s bloated, washed-out Goth contingent will hate Digital Primitives, but Cave must have recognized Cooper-Moore’s command of early American music (and some of its key African roots) and the refreshing way he’s recasting those sounds.
* Since there are always too many records and never enough time to write about them all, I’ve decided to start including daily playlists (a la Steve Smith). I won’t bother listing all the crappy records I wade through, just the ones I’d recommend; feel free to make inquiries about any of them in the comments section below. In fact, feel free to use that anytime you have a question or something’s rubbing you the wrong way.
Shorty Rogers and His Giants, Complete Quintet Sessions 1954-1956 (Fresh Sound)
Alvin Lucier, Winds Shadows (New World)
R. Keenan Lawler, Music for the Bluegrass States (Xeric)
Alice Coltrane, Universal Consciousness (Impulse)
Samsa’ra, s/t (Jazzland)