When artist-musician Terry Adkins performs on May 30 at the closing ceremony of his exhibition in tribute to blues legend Bessie Smith, he'll play guitar and leave the horns and woodwinds to Bill Cole. Adkins played sax and flute for the packed opening ceremony on April 24 when local "hoodoo man" Arthur Flowers formed the other half of that evening's improv duet. But woodwinds -- especially Asian double-reed horns -- are Cole's specialty. For next Friday's performance he'll choose among the Chinese sona, Korean hojok and piri, Indian shenai and nagaswarm, Ghandian bamboo flute, Tibetan trumpet and Australian digeridoo.
"Songs of Hearth and Valor, Recital in 8 Dominions, After Bessie Smith" is the mixed media exhibition that Adkins first exhibited a year ago in Philadelphia, where Smith spent the last 16 years of her life. SUArt's Jeff Hoone invited Adkins to bring the exhibit to Syracuse. Adkins will tour it further along a route that replicates Bessie Smith's road shows through Georgia, Texas, Chicago and the Midwest.
Adkins began exhibiting as a visual artist in 1980, adding music in 1984 while touring Europe. He calls this ever-revolving group -- himself and invited local musicians -- the Lone Wolf Recital Corps.
Last week, sitting in his Sims Hall office at Syracuse University's Department of African American Studies, where he'll become chair for a two-year term in the fall, Bill Cole recalled, "I've just talked with Terry Adkins once about this, but I'm an improvisational performer."
In 1992 Cole founded the Untempered Trio -- which became the Untempered Ensemble as it grew to seven. Since 2000, they've released four CDs -- most recently "Seasoning the Greens" -- for Boxholder Records. They've performed in New York City's Town Hall and Symphony Space. Earlier this year Cole and the group performed a new commissioned work at the Brecht Forum.