Artist Catalog

Cooper-Moore

Cooper-Moore (born Gene Y. Ashton, August 31, 1946, Loudoun County, Virginia) is an American jazz pianist, composer and instrument builder/designer based in New York City. At age 8, he was recruited by community leaders to be the piano player for the town, and soon thereafter performed at church services and community functions. When he was 12 years old, he heard musicians such as Ahmad Jamal and Charles Mingus, and was inspired to pursue jazz. He has cited pianist Jaki Byard’s contributions to Mingus’ band as a particular inspiration.

He moved to Boston in 1967 to briefly attend Berklee College of Music. In Boston he connected with many musicians, some of whom became longtime collaborators, notably David S. Ware, Marc Edwards, Cleve Pozar, and Juma Santos. In 1970, he formed a collective trio, Apogee, with saxophonist David S. Ware and drummer Marc Edwards.

In 1973, he and the rest of Apogee moved to New York City and established a living and performance space at 501 Canal Street which served as a home base for musicians including David S. Ware, Alan Braufman, Jimmy Hopps, Tom Bruno, and Ellen Christi. His first commercial recording appearance was on Braufman’s “Valley of Search” LP, released by India Navigation. Encouraged by Jimmy Hopps, he began to design and build instruments, beginning with an ashimba, an 11-note xylophone made from discarded wood.

In 1975, he returned to Virginia with his family. There he worked with bands from a variety of genres, continued to further develop an array of handmade instruments, and worked as an educator with the Head Start program.

Upon his return to New York City in 1985, he changed his name to Cooper-Moore, derived from the surnames of his grandmothers. He has performed and recorded with William Parker’s In Order to Survive and Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble, and Assif Tsahar. He established, recorded, and toured with Triptych Myth, a piano trio with Tom Abbs and Chad Taylor. He has recorded and toured extensively with Digital Primitives, a trio with Tsahar and Taylor. He has also collaborated with Daniel Carter in William Parker’s Organic Trio. He has performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in a piano duo with John Blum in 1996, and a solo performance in conjunction with the Blues for Smoke exhibit in 2013. His current projects include solo performances on piano and handcrafted instruments, the Cooper-Moore Trio with Brian Price and Pascal Niggenkemper, Digital Primitives, and Gerald Cleaver’s Black Host.

Outside of the jazz world, he has composed music for theater, including Rita Dove’s “The Darker Side of the Earth” at the Guthrie Theater, “Feathers at the Flame” by Laurie Carlos at The Kitchen, and “A Still Life” by Emily Mann. He has worked with dance troupes such as the Joan Miller Dance Players, Rod Rogers Dance Company, Marlies Yearby's Movin' Spirits Dance Theater, Koo Dance, and Judith Jackson. He has scored and composed music for movies, including Central Park: The People’s Place and Fireflies in the Abyss. He has worked with lyricists such as Fred L. Price, Carl Hancock Rux, and Arthur T. Wilson. In the 1990s he was the resident storyteller at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

He has toured extensively in Europe as well as the United States. Another group Cooper-Moore heads is the Digital Primitives trio, along with Chad Taylor and Assif Tsahar. Among the many instruments Cooper-Moore has built are "a diddley-bow, a three-string fretless banjo and a mouth bow."

Cooper-Moore received the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2017 Vision Festival in New York City.

According to Cooper-Moore:



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.