Jazz Views review

June 16th, 2016 by admin

RICHIE COLE – Pittsburgh

Richie Cole Presents RCP

Richie Cole (alto saxophone); Jeff Grubbs (bass); George Jones (congas); Reid Hoyson (drums, percussion); Mark Lucas (guitar); Jeff Lashway (piano); Patrick Whitehead (piano); Mark Perna (bass) on tracks 6 & 8

Saxophonist Richie Cole has been plowing his own brand of Alto Madness for a considerable number of years, and now after his recent move to Pittsburgh (and hence the title of his new album), is now releasing his recordings on his own label.

Initially influenced by Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker, Cole very much continues to keep the bebop flame burning, but in doing so he achieves this not from an purely academic point of view (Cole won a scholarship to study at Berklee School of Music in Boston) but by living this music through extensive touring and playing live with some of the greats. He joined Buddy Rich’s Big Band in 1969  and also furthered his experience playing in the big bands of Lionel Hampton and Doc Severinsen. At this point, looking at his career resume,  we could continue to drop some more big names into the mix, but to do so would be to take away from the fact that that Richie Cole has been able to maintain a prolific and highly successful career purely on his own musical merits. Taking these invaluable experiences away with him, the saxophonist has forged ahead remaining true to his own musical beliefs and with some five decades as professional musician shows no sign of slowing down just yet.

This first release on his newly formed label, Richie Cole Presents, is a superbly played and well balanced set that is sure to be hit with anyone familiar with his work, and sure to win many admirers that are new to Cole’s music. From the opening track ‘I Have A Home In Pittsburgh’ the band come out meaning business and after the alto introduction settle into a hard swinging groove. This is immediately followed with a change of tempo for the ballad ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, and gives ample notice of Richie’s command of instrument and idiom in a beautifully measured performance that passes in the blink of an eye, even though the piece exceeds the ten minute mark.

With two stunning opening numbers it is hard to see how the quality can be maintained, but the band do just that with Max Steiner’s ‘Flying Down To Rio’ and another superb original co-composed by Cole and drummer Reid Hoyson ‘Who’s The Man Corrupting Richie Cole?’. The answer to this question may be be found with Hoyson himself as his playing throughout is worthy of mention. Hoyson knows exactly what is required of him, and not setting out to set the world on fire he does far better in igniting the band. In doing so the rhythm section remain buoyant at all tempos, laying down a secure foundation for the soloists.

Another change in pace is handled with great aplomb on ‘Key Largo’, a Benny Carter tune that Cole as previously recorded some years ago on Alto Annie’s Theme, recorded in the year his daughter was born, and is followed by another wonderful Cole piece, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day, Candace’; and the album is rounded off with a lovely reading of ‘Tomorrow’, that just goes to show that you can’t beat a good tune well played.

This is a great place to catch up with Cole and his current recording activities, and if not yet acquainted with the altoist a good introduction to his work as for my money he is playing better than ever.

This is the first in a number of  albums planned for release in the near future, and Richie Cole can also be heard on Vocal Madness by the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet that is also reviewed this month.

Reviewed by Nick Lea

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