Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #3 — Cooper-Moore

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Cooper-Moore, a portrait. Photo: Antonio Porcar,

As a pianist, composer, teacher and instrument-builder, Cooper-Moore – born in 1946 in Loudoun County, Virginia – has been called an “American original” by WBGO-FM, and he was honored for his efforts in music, education and community with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 22nd Vision Festival, in summer 2017. The pianist met saxophonist David S. Ware while going to school in Boston in the late ’60s, and they formed the trio Apogee together, performing on New York’s loft scene in the ’70s and recording the studio album Birth of a Being. Cooper-Moore – who changed his name from Gene Ashton in the mid-’80s, taking his moniker from the surnames of his grandmothers – would later become a key member of William Parker’s In Order to Survive band and several of the bassist’s other groups. He has recorded with Parker frequently, as well as with the likes of Darius Jones, Gerald Cleaver, Susie Ibarra, Steve Swell and Bill Cole. As a leader, Cooper-Moore’s AUM Fidelity album The Beautiful – featuring his Triptych Myth trio, with bassist Tom Abbs and drummer Chad Taylor – was a highlight of 2005. JazzTimes said about the record, aptly: “Free jazz might often consist of blistering, harsh sonorities, but these three prove that the quest for beauty is as much a part of this music as catharsis.” He has also recorded with Taylor and saxophonist Assif Tsahar as the trio Digital Primitives. Cooper-Moore makes his Sound It Out debut on September 22, 2017, kicking off the sixth season of the series with a double bill featuring his piano duo with Mara Rosenbloom, as well as a new quartet with Rosenbloom, cellist Nioka Workman and drummer Michael Wimberly. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

At the Pershing, 1958 by Ahmad Jamal.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, the 1952 recording with contralto Kathleen Ferrier and conductor Bruno Walter.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

A Love Supreme by John Coltrane – I love it.

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Fireflies in the Abyss.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Not a live performance, but an unreleased recording of André Benjamin that he played for me from his phone. Hearing it gave me the same feeling that I had on first hearing Ornette Coleman’s This Is Our Music when I was in my early teens.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

My favorite is Central Park on the path to the Boat House – water, trees, grass. Least favorite – I don’t play those places.

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

From my wife, Doreen Coghlan: “Why are you going downtown to make rent for somebody else?” This was after a discussion about leading ensembles and losing money doing it. 

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Frida Kahlo.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

When I came back to live in New York City 31 years ago, I borrowed tools to build some musical instruments. I then went into the subway and the streets to make money playing those instruments. I then took that money and bought a saw, a drill and a wood plane – my trio.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My Kindle e-book reader. In it, I keep a library of more than 3,000 books. It goes where I go.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

Electronic and computer music magazines: Electronic Sound, Sound on Sound, Electronic Musician, Computer Music, Future Music.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

One has to be flexible, emotionally open and vulnerable, a learner and secure in one’s self.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

I don’t admire any one person. People whom I admire are kind, loving, generous, funny, intelligent and secure in self.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

I don’t despise anyone.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Wherever my wife is, that’s my favorite place in the world.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

Right after now.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Les Damnés de la Terre by Frantz Fanon.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

 Chandrasekhar Reddy’s Fireflies in the Abyss

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most (not a person) – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I don’t miss anything of the past. I look forward to living. I look forward to the visions that I have in my mind coming into existence.

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of (and to be made by which cook, chef, restaurant, etc.)?

Beans and rice, sautéed vegetables, a salad of sea vegetables, cucumbers and tomatoes, made by me, would be satisfying.