Richie started playing alto saxophone when he was 10 years old in his home town of Trenton, New Jersey. Influenced by Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker, Cole’s talent and dedication won him a full scholarship from Downbeat Magazine to the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
His professional career began in 1969 when he joined the Buddy Rich Big Band. And after stints with the Lionel Hampton Big Band and the Doc Severinsen Big Band, Cole formed his own quintet and toured worldwide, doing a great deal to popularize bebop and his own “Alto Madness” style in the 70’s and early 80’s.
Cole has performed and recorded with the great vocalese artist Eddie Jefferson, the Manhattan Transfer, Bobby Enriquez, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, Tom Waits, Boots Randolph, and Nancy Wilson, to name just a few of his musical collaborations. Notably, Cole has performed at the Village Vanguard and Carnegie Hall as well as gave a command performance for the Queen of England.
Cole has recorded over 50 albums and CDs, including his top hit album “Hollywood Madness” (1979 Muse Records) and his tribute album to Leonard Bernstein, “Richie Cole Plays West Side Story” (1997 Music Masters Jazz). A prolific composer, Cole also finds time to arrange for full big bands, symphony orchestras and frequent performances at jazz festivals worldwide. Moreover, he enjoys sharing his love of music with younger generations and is active recording, touring and presenting university master classes.
Cole was appointed to the Board of the National Jazz Service Organization and the Board for the National Endowment for the Arts where he served as chairman for one year. He is also a charter member of the International Association of Jazz Educators. In 2005 he was awarded the State of California Congressional Certificate of Lifetime Achievement in Jazz on behalf of the Temecula Jazz Society. Richie Cole is recognized worldwide for the sweet sounds of his alto saxophone and the creativity behind his Alto Madness Orchestra.
The Alto Madness Orchestra was developed by Cole in the early 90’s and its continuing popularity is proof of its uniqueness. As Richie explains, “The idea of the Orchestra is the concept and sound of an eighteen-piece big band using only seven instruments, four of which are horns. Not only does this have the big band ensemble sound, it also allows us plenty of room for improvisation as if we were in a quartet setting.”