Some albums you cherish simply because they are so different than what one usually hears, even when taking into account the creative music field. 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. Bassist William Parker and alto saxophonist Sam Furnace have become pillars of American free improv. Pianist Cooper-Moore is here featured on flute and a wide array of home-built instruments, the most striking being his horizontal hoe-handle harp. Tubist Joe Daley, drummer Warren Smith, and percussionist Atticus Cole complete this experienced lineup. Live in Greenfield, Massachusetts, November 20, 1999 is a two-CD set. The first disc contains two 20-minute pieces and the second features the 50-minute suite "Freedom 1863: A Fable," built on historical figures of African-American history. All combine written passages and free improvisation segments, but the suite has them organized more like tableaux. In "Struggles of Fanny Lou Hamer," Parker delivers a stellar bass solo. Atticus Cole's fiery conga/bongo solo in "Marcus Garvey" is heavily contrasted by Cooper-Moore's delicate harp in "Interlude." The music moves from free jazz sections to swing, from spirited blues ("Rosa Parks") to something one could only coin as "world music." 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.
AllMusic Review by François Couture