All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble: Live in Greenfield, Massachusets November 20, 1999


Sign in to view read count
It takes a while to get a grip on a recording like this. After having spent such “a while” absorbing this sprawling 2CD set, I’m willing to claim that this is one of the most important documents of Jazz in the past ten years. It represents a virtuosic synthesis of composition and improvisation, and of conventional and unconventional timbres. Each of the participants is a seasoned improviser comfortable with a range of Jazz aesthetics, from the accessible to the abstract. The leader of this ensemble, Bill Cole, plays a large number of wind instruments from various traditions outside Jazz, including some fantastic reed instruments from Korea and India. Additionally, Cooper-Moore performs on a number of self-invented instruments that have rich voices, transcending the novelty trap that instrument invention is prone to fall into. The sort of timbral expansion within a post-Free Jazz aesthetic that is achieved here is simply a rare and wonderful thing. Cole takes solo after solo that allows a lifetime of immersion in Jazz to reveal itself through the extraordinary timbral resources of his chosen instruments. It has been widely observed that the vitality of current improvised music stems largely from players who are discovering new timbral and tonal possibilities on familiar instruments, from Evan Parker’s saxophone to Mat Maneri’s violin. Bill Cole’s playing takes this one step further by tapping into the possibilities offered by less familiar instruments, and the result is a paradise of microtonal delights. There aren’t too many recent examples that share this methodology, although the innovative work by The Far East Side Band is probably the most obvious one, and both projects have featured the accomplished tuba playing of Joseph Daley, although Daley’s role in Cole’s ensemble is not quite as prominent as it is in his work with Hwang, et al. This music also sits comfortably next to Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures and related projects, though Cole’s group is a bit more Free Jazz-oriented. Additionally, Korean Komungo player Jin Hi Kim and double-reed specialist Joseph Celli have an impressive body of work between them, especially the Jin Hi Kim-composed double-reed blowout “Piri Quartet” from 1995’s diverse Living Tones (OODiscs). Other excellent examples of non-Western instruments being used in a Western aesthetic context include Warren Sender’s mind-blowing Antigravity ensemble, and the Northwoods Improvisers, although the latter’s records are not nearly as adventurous as the above examples.

The first piece on this set, “Struggles of Fanny Lou Hamer”, was revelatory in its first hearing. We find passages of circular breathing that go outside of a rhythmic framework, but have a structure based on an unforced flow from one phrase to the next, as opposed to a drone structure. We also hear multiple microtonal lines playing off each other without an underlying pulse, achieving results that might make more than a few composers of “contemporary classical music” quite jealous. After about 15 minutes without a drum kit, a section of confident post-Ornette Jazz comes through sounding as clear as a church bell. The remainder of the set is just as compelling. There is an astounding variety of aesthetics at play throughout, from “sound-based” to “melody-based” to “rhythm-based”, and even “harmony-based”, all sitting happily side-by-side. In this connection, it’s worth explicitly stating that this group can swing and groove in a pretty serious way at times. All the music is highly sectional, reflecting a great deal of compositional deliberation, and there are numerous solo and duo passages that give us a chance to hear the nuances of some of the unfamiliar instruments, or simply focus in on the familiar genius of William Parker. Additionally, there are passages of ensemble interaction that achieve the uplifting quality of great Free Jazz, where all the players form an emotionally meaningful whole and you can feel your spirit floating up into the air with the reed notes.

Disc 2 contains the 48 minute “Freedom 1863: A Fable”, which is broken up into 12 relatively short sections, all of which are substantially different from each other. Cole’s first solo section finds him reaching for the heights with a skittering, dancing, and ecstatic reed exploration. There are several moments, especially in “Introduction” and “Martin Luther King, Jr”, where the drums really come through with a detailed, clean, and powerful sound. In fact, the recording quality overall is top-notch.

There are moments when the piece fails to maintain a meaningful sense of continuity, such as the lackluster percussion duet in “Marcus Garvey”, which suddenly stops and is replaced by a seemingly unrelated (but quite beautiful) solo by Cooper-Moore on his Horizontal Hoe-Handle Harp. In general, though, the individual sections carry their own weight and the transitions are frequently smooth. The final section is especially effective, using insistent repetition to achieve an energetic climax. An exciting and important document.

Track Listing: disc 1: Struggles of Fanny Lou Hamer/The Short Life of Amadou Diallo/disc 2: Freedom 1863: A Fable

Personnel: Bill Cole-Digeridoo, Sona Tibetan Trumpet, Hojok, Shenai, Nagaswarm, Bamboo Flute; Cooper-Moore-Flute and hand-made instruments: Mouth Bow, Horizontal Hoe-Handle Harp, Rim Drums, and Three-Stringed Fretless Banjo; Sam Furnace-Alto Saxophone and Flute; Joseph Daley-Tuba and Baritone Horn; William Parker-Acoustic Bass; Warren Smith-Trap Drum Set, Gongs, Marimba, Dunno Drum, and Rain Sticks; Atticus Cole-Congas, Bongos, Timbales, and Rain Sticks

Title: Live in Greenfield, Massachusets November 20, 1999 | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Boxholder Records


comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Proverbs for Sam

Proverbs for Sam

Boxholder Records

Seasoning the Greens

Seasoning the Greens

Boxholder Records


Live in Greenfield,...

Boxholder Records



Boxholder Records


Related Articles

Read This City CD/LP/Track Review
This City
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 24, 2018
Read More Songs About Error And Shame CD/LP/Track Review
More Songs About Error And Shame
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 24, 2018
Read West Coast Trio CD/LP/Track Review
West Coast Trio
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: March 24, 2018
Read Sun Embassy CD/LP/Track Review
Sun Embassy
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 24, 2018
Read The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel – Beethoven Revisited Symphonies 1-9 CD/LP/Track Review
The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 24, 2018
Read Lala Belu CD/LP/Track Review
Lala Belu
by Chris May
Published: March 23, 2018
Read "Synchronic" CD/LP/Track Review Synchronic
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Solos" CD/LP/Track Review Solos
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 24, 2018
Read "Chimeric Stoned Horn" CD/LP/Track Review Chimeric Stoned Horn
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 3, 2017
Read "Resting Spirit" CD/LP/Track Review Resting Spirit
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 13, 2017
Read "The Company I Keep" CD/LP/Track Review The Company I Keep
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 28, 2017
Read "Directions" CD/LP/Track Review Directions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 15, 2017