Cooper-Moore – “The Cedar Box Recordings” 5 x 7″ [50 Miles Of Elbow Room / AUM Fidelity]

If this is what the alternative sounds like then keep your clubs and bass music. Kidding, but the truth is I’ve been pretty deep in to this collection of one man’s music this last week. Only just learning about Cooper-Moore via a unique 7″ boxset, also released on CD, titled The Cedar Box Recordings, and have fortunately been converted to a stunning catalog of music.

As an instrument designer, composer, and constant creator of his own tools to make sound, Cooper-Moore is one talented man. As a child prodigy musician who grew up in the rural south of America, he’s now had a lifetime of playing and touring around his home country and Europe with a variety of acts, most recently the Digital Primitives, and is known as a figurehead and major influence on musical creativity. Although often tied to avant-garde or free jazz, my limited experience with Cooper-Moore has taken me in a different direction. In line with a friend’s recommendation that “the most thrilling way to hear Cooper-Moore is through his solo work” I’ve found this collection of Cooper-Moore solo pieces to be an astounding snapshot of a musical world unknown to most. It’s rare to get this sort of impact from an artist from only ten cuts, but made an impact it has.

The tracks for me are reflective of his country upbringing, mixed in with the early jazz influence he speaks about in interviews. The rootsy nature of Cooper-Moore’s sounds come from the instruments he plays. From to the mouth bow, to the three string fretless banjo, Cooper-More makes his own tools of the trade often from the ground up, and to what he believes they need to sound like, using whatever’s at hand and frequently discarded items.
Can’t recommend getting a hold of this enough, and surprisingly there’s a a few reasonably priced box sets still on Discogs. 5 x 7″ records, one track per side, packaged in a wooden cedar box complete with an in-depth interview with the man himself.

The boxset dropped in 2004 on 50 Miles Of Elbow Room, but was reissued in 2008 on CD by AUM Fidelity, who’s press release we’ve included below. Right down the bottom you can see the credited instrument list.

Cooper-Moore has been active on the creative music scene for over 30 years. Recordings with artists such as David S. Ware, William Parker, and especially Triptych Myth showcased his considerable skills as a pianist. While this is the source of his greatest notoriety amongst jazz fans, he has also simultaneously developed instruments of his own design and occasionally invention. Inclusion of some of these instruments with the large ensembles of William Parker, Bill Cole, and Butch Morris gave notice to the jazz world that piano is just one part of a much greater whole that is Cooper-Moore’s music.

A whole lot more of it comes together in Cooper-Moore’s solo performances, which are remarkable displays of multi-instrumental virtuosity and showmanship. He plays one beautiful handmade instrument after another in imaginative and exciting ways, all the while offhandedly bantering with the audience and offering tall tales that can be disarmingly personal and/or hilarious. The palette and emotional range of the music is quite broad, incorporating free improvisation, composed tunes, and the nether region in between.

The first commercially available documentation of this music was issued in 2004 by 50 Miles of Elbow Room as a quintuple 7″ set of solo recordings wherein Cooper-Moore played a different instrument on each side of each record. The tracks include a diddley-bo lament, a mouthbow hymn, a high energy piano improvisation, an effects-laden banjo romp, the discombobulating sound of the twanger, and plenty more. Minus the story of Reverend Love and the overdubbing on “The Death Queen,” each side of each record features a solo performance on a different instrument. Among the recording locales were a compost heap on Ward’s Island, on a footbridge, at a gig in Bordeaux, on his fire escape, and other places. Housed in a cedar wood box and pressed in an edition of 300, this went out-of-print rather quickly.

Cooper-Moore’s fall 2008 tour of the USA presented a perfect prompt for a very sharp CD reissue of this material. Co-released with 50 Miles of Elbow Room, it is available exclusively from Cooper-Moore at these performances, and directly from here and 50 Miles of Elbow Room.

Cooper-Moore: diddley-bo, horizontal hoe-handle harp, ashimba, bamboo fife, twanger, piano, mouth-bow, three-stringed fretless banjo, percussion, synth, voice