Bill Cole

February 22, 2001

Duets & Solos Volume 1
Boxholder BXH 011

Familiarity and an appreciation for the musical anthropology of African, Arab and Far Eastern nations may be one prerequisite for enjoyment of the sounds here. That’s because multi-instrumentalist Bill Cole — the axis upon which this CD revolves — has long been an advocate of linking jazz with non-Western models. However, the most persuasive improvisations here are those which graft his version of Third World sounds onto jazz’s African-American roots.

This is expressed most convincingly in the two duo exchanges with Cooper-Moore. An exceptional pianist, who has recorded as part of Susie Ibarra and William Parker’s combos, Moore reaches back to rural slavery days for his apparatus here. One, “… the discovery by man of the Godhead in man …” contrasts the delicacy of notes plucked from his horizontal hoe handle harp with the earthy tones of Cole’s digeridoo. Imagine an Aboriginal soloist on show in a 17th Century European court and you’ll hear part of the sound picture.

Even more impressive is “W.S.C. & G.Y.A. Blues”. Here Moore manages to wring a full set of pizzicato and arco inventions out of the one-string, handcrafted instrument. Its usual simple rhythmic pulse gave one famous R&B singer his stage name, but Moore manipulates as if it was a Stradivarius and in the process reorients Cole’s Eastern shenai back across the ocean to the Delta.

Almost as convincing is the reedist’s work with drummer Warren Smith and bassist William Parker. Cole’s Tibetan trumpet — which at time buzzes like a gargantuan bee — is offset by miniscule gong variations courtesy of the master percussionist on “Meditating with Gongs”. Elsewhere, the North African visage suggested on “the moment sets out” permutates back to an American roadhouse with Smith’s drumming. At the same time, the simultaneous double and triple melodies Cole can generate with the sona and shenai on that same tune suggest that “speaking in tongues” through a horn began in a continent far away from with Albert Ayler’s Cleveland.

Parker appears to take the opposite approach by amplifying Cole’s double reed Korean piri with a bowed bass sound that could as easily be that of a Chinese one-string erhu. Together the two create an offbeat improv, which conjures up pictures of an Imperial court, where none of the nobleman are named Basie, Ellington or Oliver.

Far less gripping are Cole’s solo flights, despite one honoring pioneering Black Nationalist/Africanist Clifford Thornton. Starkly created with indigenous horns, the listener honestly doesn’t know whether the exacting soundscapes produced result from contemplative improvisation or the exoticism of these instruments’ tones to Western ears.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: “No one knows the paths of the garden better than the gardener” 2. “… the discovery by man of the Godhead in man …” 3. W.S.C. & G.Y.A. Blues 4. Meditating with Gongs 5. “the moment sets out” 6. “The Dove finds everything comfortable” 7. Song for Clifford Thornton

Bill Cole (bamboo flute, digeridoo, shenai, Tibetan trumpet, sona, piri); Cooper-Moore (horizontal hoe handle harp, diddley bow); William Parker (bass); Warren Smith (gongs, trap drums)