Published: March 14, 2007
Take a touch of blues-edged funk, add some free jazz (of both the howling and Eastern-meditative varieties), a dash of African percussion and a sprinkling of didgeridoo, and you may (or may not) begin to get some idea of the musical gumbo served
up by Cooper-Moore, Taylor and Tsahar on Digital Primitives.
And if you don't know your Bo Diddley from your diddley bow, then all will become clear on the opening track, "Turn it Up. Cooper-Moore plays a chugging Bo Diddley-style riff on a one-stringed American instrument of African origin, fetchingly named a diddley bow. This instrument substitutes for a bass and in Moore's hands, a rhythm guitar, too. The trio's energy level is high, and Tsahar riffs and blows freely on this funky, dance-floor roots number.
On the more conventional jazz tracks, such as "Human Interface and "Bone, the trio interplay is at its most impressive. The former is a vehicle for Tsahar to stretch out, while the latter is a lively dialogue between Taylor and Tsahar, anchored by Cooper-Moore's deep bass groove. When the musicians throw caution to the wind, as on "Misanthrope and "Back it Up, the concoction they brew evokes the heady sounds of James Blood Ulmer with David Murray. The way in which the three musicians mix up melody with free improvisation is impressive: stretching out, but never straying too far out there.
The album's only vocal track, the acoustic "Ol' Saint Peter, could almost be from an early '70s Grateful Dead session; it contains a riff so simple yet so catchy that you wonder why nobody had ever thought of it before. Three meditative songs—"Electric Garden, the beautiful "True to Life and the hymnal "Refuge —wed marimba with tenor sax and bass clarinet. Here, there are shades of Arthur Blythe's forgotten gem Night Songs (Clarity Records, 1997), which brought together world percussion and saxophone beautifully.
The title track, "Digital Primitives, pitches a hypnotic drum rhythm over a didgeridoo drone, and sees Cooper-Moore carve out a demonic-sounding solo on mouth bow; this is aboriginal voodoo by way of the Mississippi.
Overall, Digital Primitives is a highly accomplished album which successfully blends the conventional with the less-so, and Assif Tsahar, Cooper-Moore and Chad Taylor show themselves to be musical alchemists par excellence.
Track Listing: Turn it Up; Ol' Saint Peter; Human Interface; Electric Garden; Bones; Digital Primitives; Misanthropes; True to Life; Money Wars; Refuge; Back it Up
Personnel: Cooper-Moore: diddley bow, mouth bow, bango, voice; Assif Tsahar: tenor sax, bass clarinet, didgeidoo; Chad Taylor: drums, percussion
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