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(photo credit: courtesy)
Cooper Moore is something of an artistic, musical dichotomy. While the 61-year-old American multi-instrumentalist clearly pertains to the more adventurous side of the improvisational music tracks, he says he is willing to play almost any kind of music, providing he feels there is genuine intent involved. New York resident Moore will be here next week for a five-date tour of the country, along with his colleagues in the Digital Primitives trio, American drummer Chad Taylor and Israeli, mostly New York resident, saxophonist Assif Tsahar. Moor and Tsahar have been playing together for over a decade.
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Since Moore started performing publicly, at the tender age of 12, he has followed an undulating and meandering continuum that has taken him through classical music, liturgical works, jazz, R&B and even some country music, and rock-inflected and soul endeavors. For Moore, beyond instrumental capabilities, it's all about conveying a message. "You have to be a performer," he says. "If you know how to perform the audience will understand what it is you are doing."
He is also a great believer in paying your dues. "I started out playing piano in our local Baptist church when I was 12," recalls Virginia-born Moore. "I played a whole Easter program and I got eight dollars. I gave my mom all the money, and she gave me a dollar back. I really felt rich." Moore maintained his musical relationship with the church until he left home at 18 and moved to Washington DC, where he attended a Catholic college of music. "That was mostly a waste of time, except for the ear training and sight reading."
Eager to further his artistic acumen Moore soon moved on to the prestigious Berklee College of Music but that, too, wasn't quite the academic or artistic experience Moore had been hoping for. "The place was like a garage," he states. "They took on lots of students, including some who couldn't even play, and then threw them out after a semester. But they'd taken their fees for that semester." Moore's tenure at Berklee only lasted four months but he gained some valuable practical experience playing gigs in and around Boston. "I played in an R&B band, and in a band that did covers of [Detroit based late sixties soul music label] Motown, and jazz too. That's where I learned a lot about the business."
After study hours, and between leaving Berklee and making the transition to the bright lights and jazz joints of New York, Moore paid his dues and then some. "I played in a band that did five sets a night, seven days a week. And I did that for four months. I learned how to pace myself - not that I didn't play the way I should - but when you're doing so many sets every night of the week you have to conserve your energy. You also learn things like not moving around too much while the singer is doing her thing. It's all good stuff to learn that has stood me in good stead throughout my career."
Moore is also very much a self-made man, in more ways than one. He has built countless instruments, including a deedly-bo, a three-string fretless banjo and a mouth bow, some of which he will bring with him to Israel in the coming week. "I learned to be self-sufficient early on," he declares. "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."
However, while Moore appears to have a distinctly free-and-easy approach to the art form, he says he sticks to the roots. "Everything I do is based on the blues. That's where jazz comes from. You have lots of guys coming out and playing all sorts of things, but they haven't the got the blues roots in there. That doesn't mean a thing. You can do anything you want, but you've got to stick to the roots."
The Digital Primitives trio will play at the Beat Club in Haifa on Tuesday (May 1) at 9:30 p.m.; Tel Aviv's Levontin 7 on Wednesday (May 2) at 9 p.m. and at 11 p.m.; the Israel Museum in Jerusalam on Thursay (May 3) at 9 p.m.; and at Levontin 7 on Friday (May 4) at 9 p.m.