Cooper-Moore/Assif Tsahar America

Cooper-Moore (piano, diddley bow, banjo, drum skins and cymbal) and Assif Tsahar (tenor sax, bass clarinet, classical guitar) manage to avoid the free jazz meltdowns that dot their collective histories and present a work that tells old stories in new ways and new stories in old ways. This is an album that starts off with a gumbo groove song that acknowledges America’s deviance from the straight and narrow (and a promise to turn it around) and in the next cut manages to wander into territories marked by such modernists as Julius Hemphill and John Carter. Cooper-Moore’s use of the diddley bow (nail a few feet of wire to a barn door and slide glass or metal over it while plucking the wire!), mouth bow and banjo provide beautiful balance to Tsahar on reeds and guitar and Tsahar in an admirable display of musicality, does not overplay. When the two get to more familiar pairings of reeds/piano/drum skins, they play with feeling and economy: no notes or rhythms seem wasted here. That’s not to say that there’s no energy; there’s still a couple of withering flip outs to make sure you know that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. A blues album for those who hate free jazz, a free jazz album for those who sniff at the blues and a music album for those who think that music isn’t important. (Hopscotch)