|These are the liner notes for avant garde pianist Cooper-Moore's solo piano CD of a live performance recorded in Canada in the fall of 1999 and issued on Hopscotch Records, in March of 2000.
The great Japanese wood-block artist Shiko Munakata tells a story about his first one-man show back in 1930 when he was still painting with oils on canvas, "I had a few older pieces I wanted to exhibit. For the rest, I took bare canvases and frames to the gallery the evening before the opening, and there, that night, I painted most of my show."
As Oliver Statler says in an essay about Munakata, "Speed has always been a goal of the oriental painter. He distrusts self-conscious rational thought. He strives for the swiftest possible realization of conception, for almost automatic transmission of idea through arm and brush." And so too with this music called African-American Improvised Music, which ought to be called American Classical Music.
In the film about a photograph of jazz musicians called A GREAT DAY IN HARLEM, Nat Hentoff says, "Spontaneity is what makes this music so continually fresh. . . . You don't think of the passage of time. It is the immediacy of what that person was thinking and feeling at the time."
Think of Thelonious Monk's tune titled "That's the Way I Feel Now." No revisions. No time to go back and redo anything. This is the suddenness of a Zen ink painting.
Yet it would be a serious misunderstanding to think that Munakata's methods or the methods of improvising musicians are in any way akin to the ego-maniacal, self-aggrandizing and self-indulgent obsessions of The Me-Me-Me Generation. Munakata is hooked deeply into the traditions of both Chinese and Japanese painting and he and his whole family before him were followers of Shinto ritual and practitioners of the Zen sect of Buddhism. And so it is with this tradition-rich music called improvised music.
Clearly the focus in a method like Munakata's tradition and also the focus in improvised music is, or should be, on the preparation of the person who will make the product, and how that person grows up and out of the tradition. All of us have a history. We all come from somewhere, and for improvising artists be they Japanese wood cut artists or African American jazz musicians, the neighborhood of history and influence in which they grow up is of paramount importance.
At the end of A GREAT DAY IN HARLEM Art Farmer, his lower lip and chin quivering with the intensity of his emotion, says, "When I start counting heads