Joint review of Sunsum and Trayvon Martin Suite

"This can be challenging music for some audiences, for some of the same reasons it is so rewarding: unusual instrumentation, focus on improvisation and the mastery of the players, which allows them an infinite freedom of expression. At once profound and accessible, this music rewards those who listen openly."

Review of Sunsum (2014)

"Sunsum" named best pick for improvised jazz in 155th issue. Excerpt of the Review of the Sunsum (2015):

""If you are truly a fan of improv, you won’t be able to do without this one in your collection… Bill’s work with wind instruments is unparalleled in today’s jazz world, & you owe it to yourself to have a listen."

Excerpt of a Review of the Sunsum (2015):

"Listen to Bill Cole—no matter what reed instrument he is playing—and you will never be the same again."

Excerpt of a Review of the Travyon Martin Suite (2015):

"Good music serves one of two purposes: personal gratification or social awareness. Great music invites the listener into the secrets of the soul and raises and changes the level of socio-political consciousness forever. The music of the master reeds player Bill Cole and that of the prince of the low-toned woodwinds and more Joseph Daley has done all of the above with unexpurgated force, consistent clarity and true genius."

Excerpt of a Review of the Travyon Martin Suite (2015):

"Each piece does a great job of capturing the spirit/vibe of what transpired that night and the mixed feelings we are all still dealing with due to too many other similar, continuing tragedies. This is an important, strong and immensely timely work that should be heard by many folks everywhere."

Excerpt of a Review of the Travyon Martin Suite (2015):

"These two pros return to the days of civil rights jazz in their tribute to Trayvon Martin and they know how to convey the anger and confusion the times bestow. Like prime period civil rights jazz, this isn't easy to listen to but it shows that listening in general is what's needed for any one that wants to seek a newer world[.]"

Excerpt of a Review of Sunsum (2014):

"I have caught (perhaps a half dozen) different versions of the Untempered Ensemble through the years and have always been knocked out by each & every performance. Same for this one.... All of the music here has a joyous, uplifting vibe which is consistently enchanting. This disc is nearly an hour long and a transcendent aura pervades throughout."

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:

"[Billy Bang and Bill Cole] create a wide range of colors and sonorities (the violin and shenai combination is laden with overtones), and they weave in and around each other – each player displaying an ease with, and understanding of, the approach of the other player.... These are two sensitive musicians who are in total communication with each other and who work towards new modes and forms of expression."

Review of the Untempered Ensemble's self-titled 2011 album:

"My most recent review of Bill Cole’s works was in issue # 115, where he & his compatriots got a fine rating… this outing (live again) has them playing at Syracuse U (September, 2009), & again they are in fine form.  A new aspect on this performance is the addition of vocal works by Althea SullyCole (a first for Bill)… they are skillfully woven into the power-packed (& long) sessions!  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find sound samples (or YOUTUBE vids), so you’ll just have to rely on my ears… my absolute favorite track (clocking in at 21:48), was “A Man Of Outstanding Quality Is Preeminent Among His Comrades”… it runs the whole circuit… slow build, intimate percussion and wonderful vocals.  The thing to remember about music from Bill & compatriots is that it is NOT “pop” music… you must actually LISTEN to this to comprehend it… in that sense, it get my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, especially for folks who want some ADVENTURE in their listening experience.  I give it an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97."

Review for the Untempered Ensemble's self-titled 2011 album:

"Bill Cole, a multicultural multi-instrumentalist, is one of the guys at the top of the hierarchy in the improvised music scene, having been at it in earnest since at least the late 70s.... [T]his performance by the Untempered Ensemble at the Vision Festival continues a tradition started nearly twenty years ago by Cole, putting together performers both young and old, established and up-and-coming, to forge music representing Bill Cole’s singular vision of Eastern and African enhanced jazz." 

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:


"Two giants of music, two master improvisers, Bill Cole and Billy Bang, perform on stage a lively dialogue that’s very difficult to duplicate.  In April of 2009 at the University of Virginia Chapel, in Charlottesville, Virginia, those lucky enough to enjoy their performance had much to gain from the synthesis of these two unique master craftsmen.  Billy Bang, one of the more significant violinists of the northern musical world, who has worked with sacred figures of jazz (among others, James Emery, Sun Ra, Andrew Cyrille, Bill Laswell, Don Cherry, Marilyn Crispell, Ronald Shannon Jackson, James “Blood” Ulmer) and the very exceptional wind instrument player Bill Cole (who has worked with William Parker, Sam Rivers, Warren Smith and others) formulated creative ideas, with authenticity, feeling, passion and inspiration, and by working together applied their precise talent to serve a pioneering and fascinating music.  Their excellent organized dialogues (violin from Billy Bang and various traditional wind instruments like digeridoo, nagaswarm, sona, flute, shenai from Bill Cole) attain unique dimensions and become a vehicle for an adventurous journey to the impenetrable soul. Without a doubt, this is one of the top combinations of Eastern and Western sound from two leading improvisers whose performance resulted in giving explosive dimensions to the audience – one genuine and substantial revelation of inner depth that can without geographic limits travel to the musical universe.  Further, through the CD we become witness to all that were a part of it and understand the enthusiasm of the public that idolized with loud applause the six exciting actions of this leading duo."

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:

"The digeridoo and double reeds are not jazz instruments, and the violin is at the edge of jazz. But violinist Billy Bang and Asian double reed master Bill Cole have combined their oddly textured instruments into an interesting blend of avant-garde colors. The disc, recorded live at the University of Virginia Chapel, is haunting at times, and the echo-filled chapel a perfect setting for unencumbered music. Much of the disc is improvised, with the two guiding each other in various directions, all of them outside the musical norm. Some are sparse and spacious, like 'Shades of Kia Mia,' while others are thick and reedy, as on the flurry called 'Poverty is the Father of Fear.' This music is probably more interesting live. This isn't an easy listen, but it is unique."

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:

"It’s too bad that the sonic gems these two Bills create together aren’t available somewhere on the web (if YOU have links to any samples of the trax, please let me know right away).  With that out of the way, I will simply say that the 6 long improvisations are gems from modern improvising masters.  I especially enjoyed Bill Cole’s penetrating performance on the opener, “Digeridoo and Violin Improvisation”… what’s most unique about both of these players is the pace… there is nothing rushed in their playing, and you know from that – they have nothing to prove to anyone – they’ve GOT IT & they KNOW IT (without having to say so).  This is a great CD for folks new to improvisation, as well as veteran listeners, but it will require your total & undivided attention and focus.  I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."  

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:

"A collection of intriguing compositions by both Cole and Bang, as well as tumultuous improvisations that emerged from the depths of each man's soul, this album will remain one of the most mystical confluences in music to be captured on record.... The otherworldly charm of the album makes it all the more enduring."

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:


"I've listened to this album about a half dozen times now - in a row. It makes waves over me. It courses with emotion, fire, pain. It's not an easy listen. It better not be."

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:

"The meeting of these two whack jazz masters holding little back is a real treat for fans of both of them."

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:

"William Parker calls Bill Cole 'the number one master double reed player on the planet' and the proof is in the pudding. For this superb duo effort Mr. Cole plays three double reeds, the shenai, the nagaswarm and the sona (or suona, a Chinese wind instrument) as well as flute and digeridoo. Another master musician is the ever-amazing Billy Bang who is fine form here. Together, they make a perfect pair of heavy spirits.... Bang-Cole are a most extraordinary duo to be reckoned with."

Review of Billy Bang / Bill Cole 2010 duet album:

"... [The album is] intense, sometimes apprehensive, even abrasive - but for a fans of a good jam, it's pure bliss.... For anyone who likes powerful, adrenalizing music and isn't scared off by a lot of upper midrange, this is a treat - you'll see this on your Best Albums of 2011 list at year's end."

Review of Proverbs for Sam (2008):

"Bill Cole has been one of the true iconoclasts, albeit underrecognized, in the creative improvised music field.... These live performances... feature Cole's stellar Untempered Ensemble, a perfect moniker for this freewheeling, no-holds-barred group that raises the bar on counterpointed lines, world music infusions, and an intrepid approach to pure harmonic invention.... [T]his recording will appeal to the challenged listener only, but it has a depth, spirit, and soul transcending many other similar projects, while standing proudly alongside musics from the Art Ensemble, other A.A.C.M. groups, and the modernists of the African-American root-strata disapora self-determining tradition."

Review of Proverbs for Sam (2008):

"Proverbs for Sam is a fitting tribute and carries a spiritual weight not found in most run-of-the-mill world music projects."

Review of Proverbs for Sam (2008):

"A bracing merger of East-West traditions recorded in the presence of an appreciative audience, Proverbs for Sam is a vibrant investigation of pan-global musical possibilities and a celebratory ode to a beloved artist."

Excerpt of a review of Bill Cole's duet album with William Parker, Two Masters: Live at the Prism:

"Parker is one of Two Masters, in an altogether different setting with double-reed specialist Bill Cole. Parker largely plays bass in Cole's Untempered Ensemble, but here he draws from an array of exotic Eastern and African instruments for six meditative and exploratory duets. On the opening "Angels in Golden Mud, Parker's lovely doson ngoni resonates like a harp cut from oak. "Election Funeral Dance begins frenetically but morphs into a mournful wailing dirge for two voices. Each improvisation in this concert combines tonal textures in a successful bid to revitalize through the healing qualities of music."

Excerpt of a review of Bill Cole's duet album with William Parker, Two Masters: Live at the Prism:

"Two Masters reaches even further [beyond emulation for its own progressive means], past the orthodoxies of harmony and rhythm. Taking the lead of multi-reedist Bill Cole, in whose Untempered Ensemble [Parker] plays, Parker rifles through a handful of nonwestern instruments: Indonesian flute, Malian harplike doson ngoni and African talking drum among them. The results are incantatory and almost fully abstract-if Cole and Parker aren't free-improvising, then they're doing a good impression of it. Melodies do emerge organically, as on "Bird and Branch." But this isn't music about line or form so much as spirit."

Excerpt of Bill Cole's Duet album with William Parker, Two Masters: Live at the Prism:

"Bill Cole and William Parker Two Masters Live at the Prism (3 stars); 

… [T]his enchanting collaboration [] investigates Afro-Asian textures without entirely losing sight of the blues continuum in which Parker is squarely anchored. Conceivably, the master stroke here is the highly vocal quality that the two players bring to the deployment of both [] high register double reed instruments and rumbling, low register strings and percussion. Their very expressionistic phrasing, a plaintive exclamatory character infuses the disc, and the generous space each player allows the other lets the distinct tonalities breathe and blend like single notes and chords on the same keyboard...."

Excerpt of a review of Bill Cole's duet album with William Parker, Two Masters: Live at the Prism:

"Over the years William Parker and Bill Cole have taken improvisation to new plateaus, through both individual projects and Cole's Untempered Ensemble, of which Parker is a member. This is their first full recording as a duo. They play a host of instruments from around the world, and given their credentials, it is not surprising that they have understood the instruments and mastered the technique of playing them as well.

… At the end of it all, this record serves as an illuminating example of the intuitive relationship that Cole and Parker share."

Excerpt of a review of Bill Cole's duet album with William Parker, Two Masters: Live at the Prism:

"You've got to wonder whether Parker or Cole felt the slightest bit self-conscious about dubbing themselves Two Masters in the title of this all-improvised duo set. Not that it's a matter for much dispute.

... Bill Cole is [] known for his work on various exotic instruments, especially with his Untempered Ensemble and there's something about the Chemistry between him and Parker that is always especially potent.

The music here brings to mind the motto of Chicago's AACM artists' group, Great Black Music: Ancient To The Future, as it runs from moments of supremely advanced free-improvisation through long passages of the most elementally beautiful folk song."

Excerpt of Bill Cole's Duet album with William Parker, Two Masters: Live at the Prism:

"... [O]n 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.

… 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... 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.

… [L]isteners will find the music onTwo 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."

Review of Seasoning The Greens (2001):

"Bill Cole's music is a treasure for all the world to hear, beautiful art inspired by and borrowed from all cultures and delivered back with love. Seasoning the Greens (both the piece and the album) may be the reedman's most heartwarming and downright irresistible work yet.... Seasoning the Greens is a must-have."

Review of Seasoning The Greens (2001):

"... Seasoning The Greens is successful not only because free jazz and many types of nonwestern music share characteristics, but also because Cole knows how to add up their differences in a natural way.... Seasoning The Greens is a winner from start to finish – Cole is backed by an enthusiastic and empathic band, and his understanding of the nonwestern music that inspired this project pushes it just to the left of any other free jazz you’ve heard."

Review of Seasoning The Greens (2001):

"A worthwhile listen for the geographically curious jazzer."

Review of Seasoning the Greens (2001):

"An education for the ear, an essential disc for listeners with geographical aspirations or interests in a different musical palette."

Review of Duets & Solos, Vol. 1:

"It is here in these conversations between old friends and playing partners that the workings of [Cole's] approach really hum.... This is an intimate, varied, and haunting collection."

Review of Duets & Solos, Vol. II (2001):

"Cole goes beyond the traditional expectations of the instruments just as his partners do, and the sound combinations of such diverse instruments being played with so much attention and taste do not fail to please. Sometimes one can practically hear the musicians thinking as they build their phrases around each other; if you are looking for background sound, go somewhere else."

Review of Bill Cole & The Untempered Ensemble, Duets And Solos, Volume 1 (2001)

"Whether he's sounding like Dewey Redman's unhinged twin alongside veteran Warren Smith's trap set, or taking the background drone role on the digeridoo to accompany Cooper-Moore's "horizontal hoe-handle harp", the results are never less than engaging on a level above their preternatural sonics.... Cheers to Boxholder for making this album available."

Review of the Untempered Ensemble Live in Greenfield, Massachusettes (2000):

"I’m willing to claim that this is one of the most important documents of Jazz in the past ten years. It represents a virtuosic synthesis of composition and improvisation, and of conventional and unconventional timbres. Each of the participants is a seasoned improviser comfortable with a range of Jazz aesthetics, from the accessible to the abstract.... An exciting and important document."

Review of the Untempered Ensemble Live in Greenfield, Massachusettes (2000):

"Bill Cole's music comes from jazz, but it embodies so much more. The flutist has become a master in all kinds of exotic woodwinds, from the didjeridoo to the double-reeded sona. His acolytes in the Untempered Ensemble come from different backgrounds and comprise a highly unusual new jazz formation.... Australian, Chinese, and Indian flutes come together with harp, tuba, saxophone, and a lot of percussion to produce music that expresses life itself, from its most exhilarating moments to Zenlike tranquility. Records of this caliber are too rare. Very strongly recommended."