Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Bill Cole Untempered Ensemble: 11/20/99

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Cole has collected and learned to play instruments from all over the globe yet finds much of his inspiration-at least on this vibrant live recording, 11/20/99-in American civil rights history. Nearly every minute of music on 11/20/99, has been dedicated to a range of figures from the canonical (W.E.B. Dubois) to the recent and controversial (Amadou Diallo). While Cole could have very easily resorted to diatribe and posturing, he and his ensemble instead come up music of subtlety and surprising power.

Cole’s Untempered Ensemble draws from Mingus in its drive, its bluesy shuffle and wild polyphony. In its collision of modern and older styles and sounds it also resembles John Carter’s Roots and Folklore project or even Ives’ folk-music assimilations. On his expansive suite “Freedom 1863: A Fable” and the two long pieces dedicated to Fanny Lou Hamer and Amadou Diallo, Cole adroitly commingles voices less familiar to jazz contexts with more standard instruments. Unusual sonorities and instruments of variable pitch, such as Cole’s own Tibetan trumpet or bamboo flute, unsettle but also spark the jumping group passages thick with saxophone, walking bass and drums. Out of the buzzing mix surface evocative patches of sound: the blues-inflected slide guitar, (Cooper-Moore’s fretless Banjo on “Harriet Tubman”) or the fife and drum (alongside Joe Daley’s loping tuba lines on “Frederick Douglass”). Eminently listenable, cohesive and frequently striking, this recording from the Untempered Ensemble is well worth seeking out.