Bill Cole is an American jazz musician, composer, educator and author. An admired innovator in the music world, Cole successfully combines Eastern sounds with an American art form – jazz. Cole specializes in non-Western wind instruments, especially double reed horns – including Chinese sonas, Korean hojok and piri, Indian nagaswarm and shenai and Tibetan trumpet, as well as the Australian digeridoo and Ghanaian flute. Cole is the leader of the Untempered Ensemble which he founded in 1992. He has performed with Sam Rivers, Billy Bang, Jayne Cortez, Julius Hemphill, Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer, William Parker, Fred Ho, Gerald Veasley and others, at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Town Hall, Symphony Space and venues around the U.S., and has recorded for Boxholder Records.
All About Jazz has written: “Cole has explored the expressive capabilities of Asian double reed instruments in a jazz context for almost four decades. His virtuosity on digeridoo, Chinese sona, Ghanian flute, Indian shenai and nagaswarm infuses his writing and improvising with a pan-global authenticity that avoids dilettantish exoticism.” “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.” (Michael Parker) In the early 1980’s Professor Fela Sowande gave Cole a collection of 500 proverbs from the Yoruba of Nigeria. Since then Cole has written musical compositions based on almost 100 of the proverbs, many of which are among the Ensemble’s repertoire. From 1975 – 1982 Cole wrote seven major works based on the philosophy of the Ibo of Nigeria, which holds that the human soul reincarnates seven times. Each of the “Seven Cycles” increased in length and size – ranging from the First Cycle (featuring Cole with Sam Rivers and Warren Smith) to later Cycles that included as many as 40 musicians, drumming ensembles and Gospel choirs.
Cole served as professor of music at Amherst College until 1974, and then at Dartmouth College until 1990. He retired in 2010 as Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University. Cole has authored books about two jazz legends: “Miles Davis: The Early Years” (1974, William Morrow/1994, Da Capo Press), and “John Coltrane” (1976, Schirmer/2001 Da Capo Press), and has published numerous reviews and critical essays.