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Assif Tsahar/ Cooper-Moore/ Hamid Drake - Lost Brother

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Artist: Assif Tsahar/ Cooper-Moore/ Hamid Drake

Album: Lost Brother

Label: Hopscotch

Review date: Jan. 24, 2006

Collaboration is crucial to creative ventures involving entities beyond the individual in number. To that end, Assif Tsahar has demonstrated time and again his acumen at choosing and sustaining artistic alliances that encourage prosperous returns. Cooper-Moore and Tsahar share a musical kinship dating back (at least) to their work together in William Parker’s ’90s collective, In Order to Survive. The years subsequent to that seminal ensemble’s dissolution have presented various touring opportunities for the duo. A pair of eclectic albums on Hopscotch documents a partnership that continues to grow. Lost Brother takes the template and adds a third catalytic force in the persona of percussionist Hamid Drake. Tsahar has tapped Drake in the past for various performances and recordings, so the pick isn’t a complete curveball, but it’s still impressive how well the drummer’s multifarious rhythms augment the energy reservoir of the three.

C-M avoids piano completely and pares down his usual bulging satchel of instruments to just three specimens. The record opens with the harsh scratch of what sounds like a splintered stylus gouging into a slice of spinning vinyl. It’s actually C-M plugging in and calibrating his twanger, a stringed contraption that generates brittle trampoline-like tonalities of often Laswellian-sized proportions. The diddley-bow is similar in construction, but generally much cleaner in tone, sounding akin to a fretless electric bass, which it essentially is, albeit in single string form. C-M works around the limited harmonic latitude of both instruments, shaping vamps and anchors that on occasion rival those of Jamaladeen Tacuma in terms of visceral pocket-seated grooves.

Drake renders his role with customary finesse, generating a felicitous range of beats for each setting and purpose. On “Departure,” his frothy snare cadences congeal with C-M’s burbling diddley-bow to form an undulating spring-loaded funk mattress for Tsahar’s tenor to bounce and bluster atop. “The Coming of the Ship” favors an even tighter fit and by the time the laser hits “Goin’ Home,” the three have sketched a syncopated ensemble schematic that sounds uncommonly close to Spaceways Incorporated, Tsahar chewing through a string of gnarled riffs that would probably make Vandermark crack a smile.

Sequenced between the handful of tenor-fronted ‘groove’ tracks are a series of more meditative excursions. On these, C-M turns to malleted ashimba. Drake plays frame drum on the first piece “Falling Leaf,” but turns to supple tabla for the remaining four. Tsahar straps on his bass clarinet and evinces the breadth of his growth on the instrument. His lush articulation and emotive phrasing conjure rustic aural scenery ranging from African savannah to Israeli desert against the plush and soothing percussive backgrounds woven by his partners. I found myself queuing “Dugong the Sea Cow” several times in succession and slipping into a relaxed semi-trance under the aegis of the delicate and earnest interplay.

December always seems to become something of a Dead Letter Office for new releases. Albums released during the month frequently miss the cut for inclusion on year-end lists and it falls on elephant-minded critics and consumers to crow about the cream of the late-harvesting crop over the course of the next annum. In the interest of bucking that troublesome trend, this disc sits comfortably among the best two dozen discs I heard in ’05, tail end or otherwise. And I'd advise anyone with an interest in the work of these three men to pull the trigger on an immediate purchase.

By Derek Taylor

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