Photo: Cooper-Moore | © Joyce Jones/ Suga Bowl Photography. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Used with Permission.
The next show will air on Sunday, May 14, 2017 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. “Suga’ In My Bowl” kicks off its Vision 22 coverage featuring this year’s Lifetime of Achievement recipient composer, performer, instrument builder/designer, storyteller, teacher, mentor, and organizer, Cooper-Moore.
Cooper-Moore has been a major, if somewhat behind-the-scenes, catalyst in the world of creative music for over 40 years. As a child prodigy, Cooper-Moore played piano in churches near his birthplace in the Piedmont region of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
His performance roots in the realm of avant jazz music date to the NYC Loft Jazz era in the early/mid-70s. His first fully committed jazz group was formed in 1970 – the collective trio Apogee with David S. Ware and drummer Marc Edwards. Sonny Rollins asked them to open for him at the Village Vanguard in 1973, and they did so with aplomb. A studio recording of this group was made in 1977, and issued as Birth of a Being on hatHut under Ware’s name in 1979 (re-mixed and re-issued in expanded form on AUM Fidelity in 2015!).
Following an evidently rather trying European tour with Ware, Beaver Harris, and Brian Smith in 1981, Cooper-Moore returned home and completely destroyed his piano, with sledgehammer and fire, in his backyard. He didn’t play piano again until some years after, instead focusing his energies from 1981-1985 on developing and implementing curriculum to teach children through music via the Head Start program.
Returning to New York in 1985, he spent a great part of his creative time working and performing with theatre and dance productions, largely utilizing his hand-crafted instruments. It was not until the early 90s, when William Parker asked him to join his group In Order To Survive, that Cooper-Moore’s pianistic gifts were again regularly featured in the jazz context.
In the early ‘aughts the group Triptych Myth was his own first regular working jazz group in decades and together they blazed some trails (may again!) and released two albums; one rich formative, and one exquisite. Cooper-Moore’s creative life continues well, strong and unabated into the present day.
Among the many instruments Cooper-Moore has built are a diddley-bow, a three-string fretless banjo and a mouth bow played with hands and drumsticks. According to Cooper-Moore, “I have taken stuff out a dumpster to make an instrument which I have used at gigs. If you put me somewhere, and I had to play and didn’t have an instrument, I’d get everything I needed and make an instrument within a few hours.”
We’ll begin the show with an update on this year’s Vision Fest from organizer Patricia Nicholson Parker, and we’ll play a audio from a discussion between Moore and bassist William Parker from a recent salon.
(Bio adapted from Cooper-Moore’s page on Aum Fidelity Records)
Cooper-Moore performs at Vision Fest on May 29 with the Digtal Primitives and In Order to Survive ensembles. See our blog for an extended preview and full coverage of this year’s Vision Fest. WBAI proudly returns as a media sponsor.
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Watch Cooper-Moore in this 2013 live performance at The Stone with William Parker, Hamid Drake, and Daniel Carter.
Watch Cooper-Moore in this 2008 live solo performance with his custom made instruments.
Watch Cooper-Moore in this 2017 live performance at Jazzhouse in Copenhagen with Digital Primitives.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system.