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Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble: Proverbs for Sam

Dan McClenaghan By

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Bill Cole has such a typical American name that those unfamiliar with his music could be forgiven for expecting to hear quintessential American jazz on his recorded offerings. Cole, a rare breed of jazz artist who has focused his efforts on uniting Eastern sounds with the American art form, is a musical seeker who has, over the better part of four decades, mastered an array of non-traditional, non-Western instruments: the Chinese Sona, Australian Digeridoo, Indian Shenai, Ghanaian flute, and Indian Nagaswarm.

Cole's Untempered Ensemble, heard on the marvelous Seasoning the Greens (Boxholder Records, 2002), is back with an equally compelling Proverbs for Sam.

The Ensemble is a septet featuring the front line of saxophone/flautist Sam Furnace, the ever-iconoclastic Cooper-Moore on diddly bow, rim drums and flute and brass man Joseph Daley on tuba, baritone horn, and trombone. They layer their freewheeling artistry, along with Cole's searing double-reed wailing, over rollicking, rolling African percussion.

The four Proverbs are taken from the Yorubas of Nigeria. "Don't Wait for the Day of the Battle Before Getting Your Weapons Ready" has the loose-jointed feeling of a Dixieland marching band coming to terms with the stinging insect sound of Cole's tight, high-pitched Eastern reed blowing with an uncommon zest. The percussionists entice—not to in-sync stepping but, rather, toward an abandonment to exuberant dance.

That's how things are for the entire set, with each piece clocking in at a long, twelve to twenty-five minutes—an extended and unpredictable journey.

The album is a dedication to titular reedman Sam Furnace, who passed away in 2004. The first three Proverbs were recorded at the 2001 Vision Festival in New York, while the last two—the twenty-five minute "No One Knows the Paths in a Garden Better Than the Gardener" and "A Follower Should Always Allow His Guide to Lead"—come from the same Vermont concert documented on Seasoning of the Greens.

These are vibrant, compelling sounds—a joyfully unfettered, East-Meets-West send-off for the Ensemble's saxophonist.

Track Listing: Don't Wait for the Day of Battle Before Getting Your Weapons Ready; If a Blacksmith Continues to Strike an Iron at One Point He Must Have a Reason; The Drum Sounding a Message in War is Beaten in a Cryptic Manner; Only Wise Men Can Dance to It, and Only Experienced Men Can Understand It; No One Knows the Paths in a Garden Better Than the Gardener; A Follower Should Always Allow His Guide to Lead.

Personnel: Bill Cole: Chinese Sona, Digeridoo, Indian Shenai, Ghanaian Flute, Indian Nagaswarm; Sam Furance: alto saxophone, flute; Joseph Daley: baritone horn, tuba, trombone; Williams Parker: bass; Warren Smith: multiple percussion, marimba, voice, whistle; Cooper-Moore: diddly bow, rim drums, flute, voice; Atticus Cole: multiple percussion.

Title: Proverbs for Sam | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Boxholder Records


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