All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Bill Cole & William Parker: Two Masters: Live at the Prism

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
As much if not better known for his two books on John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Bill Cole has nevertheless etched out a rather singular place in improvised music as an expert on a variety of instruments associated primarily with eastern cultures. And with his Untempered Ensemble, he has managed to embrace these unusual instruments, retaining their cultural roots while applying them to broader improvisational concerns.

Bassist William Parker, a charter member of the Untempered Ensemble, is certainly familiar with Cole's world view. But while Parker's contribution to Cole's ensemble has been on his primary instrument, he is, in fact, another artist with an interest in cultures abroad. When he played at last year's Ottawa International Jazz Festival, he brought along a shakuhachi, adding an unusual texture to his freewheeling O'Neal's Porch quartet. But on Two Masters: Live at the Prism Parker and Cole get the opportunity to more fully explore a kind of world music-meets-free improvisation aesthetic. The result is a recording that stretches all kinds of boundaries, at the same time retaining the somewhat insulated feeling of two players in deep communion.

Beginning with the tranquil, restorative "Angels in Golden Mud, Cole appears on the Australian didgeridoo and Parker on the harp-like Malian doson ngoni. For nearly nine minutes Cole and Parker create a sound that is transcendent and meditative. Elsewhere, on "Waterfalls of the South Bronx, the exchange becomes more heated, with Parker using his unique double-bow, which allows him to bow on both sides of the bass bridge, to create a greater sense of urgency mirrored by Cole's work on the Chinese double-reed sona.

Two Masters is most interesting because of the wealth of textures and combination of instruments brought together from diverse cultures for perhaps the first time. "Bird and Branch features Parker on an Indonesian flute, while Cole pierces the more peaceful proceedings with another double-reed instrument, the Indian shenai. Parker and Cole put two Indian nagaswarms together on "Election Funeral Dance, possibly the clearest example of just how much these two listen to each other. While the entire programme is freely improvised, it's not without a sense of logic, as each player sometimes reacts, at other times pushing forward and expecting the other to follow.

The set closes with the twenty-minute "Ending Sequence and Sunset, which begins somewhat frantically with Cole on Korean hojok and Parker on dunno (talking drum). The pace winds down in the last five minutes or so, but the shrill nature of the hojok—of all the double-reed instruments Cole uses, for that matter—makes any images of sunset very odd indeed.

With the exception of "Angels in the Golden Mud, listeners will find the music on Two Masters challenging, in no small part due to the harsh nature of Cole's instruments. But that shouldn't frighten the unconventionally-minded from enjoying two masters of improvisation coming together for a spontaneous meeting of the spirits.

Visit William Parker on the web.

Track Listing: Angels in Golden Mud; Ojibwa Song; Waterfalls of the South Bronx; Bird and Branch; Election Funeral Dance; Ending Sequence and Sunset

Personnel: Bill Cole (didgeridoo (Australia), flute (Ghana), voice, sona (China), shenai (India), nagaswarm (India), hojok (Korea)), William Parker (bass, voice, doson ngoni (Mali), flute (Indonesia), nagaswarm (India), dunno (talking drum), whistle)

Title: Two Masters: Live at the Prism | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Boxholder Records


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read The Questions CD/LP/Track Review
The Questions
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Meerkat Parade CD/LP/Track Review
Meerkat Parade
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 20, 2018
Read The Poetry of Jazz CD/LP/Track Review
The Poetry of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 20, 2018
Read The Unknowable CD/LP/Track Review
The Unknowable
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Like A Radio CD/LP/Track Review
Like A Radio
by Doug Collette
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Live In Healdsburg CD/LP/Track Review
Live In Healdsburg
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 19, 2018
Read "Plays Hendrix" CD/LP/Track Review Plays Hendrix
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 10, 2017
Read "Tandem" CD/LP/Track Review Tandem
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 26, 2018
Read "Book Of Rhapsodies Vol. II" CD/LP/Track Review Book Of Rhapsodies Vol. II
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 9, 2017
Read "Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 5, 2018
Read "Karoujite" CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Invitation" CD/LP/Track Review Invitation
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 8, 2017