The Checkout: The Irrepressible Ingenuity of Cooper-Moore

May 27, 2017

A bundle of discarded wood on a New York City sidewalk, and a piece of advice from a close friend, inspired the artist Cooper-Moore to become an inventor of instruments. In the 1970s, he was an integral part of the loft-jazz scene, along with his old college buddy, saxophonist David S. Ware. As Cooper-Moore explains in this Checkout podcast, he played the piano more than proficiently, but wanted to set himself apart further.


So he reached backed to his roots, and into the depths of his imagination, remembering how he used to build and repair just about everything while growing up in rural, segregated Virginia. With copious self-determination, he created his own assembly line of unique instruments: music-making vessels he calls the twanger, ashimba and diddley-bow. Here he performs a historically charged piece called "Emancipation" on one of his instruments, live in the studio at WBGO.

At 70, Cooper-Moore is finally receiving his due as an American original at Vision Fest 22 this weekend, where he'll receive a lifetime achievement award at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. He'll perform with three of his favorite bands: Digital Primitives, William Parker's In Order To Surive and Gerald Cleaver's Black Host. And a documentary film about Cooper-Moore's life will screen at The New York Film Anthology Archives this Sunday.

Music mix: Corey Goldberg
Assistant Producer: Molly Fichter

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