Multifaceted New York pianist Cooper-Moore gives a rare Chicago performance | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Multifaceted New York pianist Cooper-Moore gives a rare Chicago performance 

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Andy Newcombe

New York pianist Cooper-Moore brings a characteristic mix of elegance and fury to his parts on Meditation/Resurrection (Aum Fidelity), a new double album by bassist William Parker. But as explosive as his performance gets, with percussive runs that summon the spirit of fellow travelers such as Cecil Taylor and Don Pullen, Cooper-Moore is clearly working as a member of a group, pulling together with alto saxophonist Rob Brown and drummer Hamid Drake to bring Parker’s bluesy, stormy compositions to life. Cooper-Moore tends to wield his prodigious piano talents in ensembles, doing work that recently earned him a lifetime achievement award at New York’s Vision Festival. But there are other sides to his art. He builds instruments, mostly from discarded materials, that have clear historical precedents—his diddley-bo, for instance, was inspired by a single-string zither from the rural south that influenced the development of the blues. His ashimba is an 11-note xylophone-like device, his twanger is a fretless two-string lute, and his horizontal hoe-handle harp is exactly what it sounds like. Cooper-Moore’s 2008 release The Cedar Box Recordings balances sonic experimentation (the ominous rubbery rumble of the twanger on “That’s Right,” for instance) with acknowledgements of music’s social or ritual function—he includes a mouth-bow rendition of “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” a song he learned at church in rural Virginia as a child. It’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do at any given concert, especially when there’s a piano in the house—and the promise of surprise is what makes his shows so enticing.   v

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