Once the boy wonder of all-things jazzy, Richie Cole is now, unbelievably, a year short of 70. No longer tied to any label contract (but to his own Richie Cole Presents), he records when he likes, or more likely ready to bask in the spotlight and when he has something to sing about. Recent releases have worked almost like a Thomas Cook tour of music – from the boppish album wonderful Vocal Madness with the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet (HouseKat Records, 2014) and the luscious ballad recording Richie Cole Plays Ballads and Love Songs (RCP, 2016). Nothing there could really point to Mr Cole exploring his sassy Latin Side. But happily the alto saxophonist made this exquisite segue into Latin Lover.
The 2016 Ballads and Love Songsmight have given an indication that we were in for an extended embrace of amour. Still this album is anything but conventional even if Mr Cole loves to stay close to the familiarity of melody, until he makes a break for feverish improvisation. And there are plenty of both on this disc. Every piece here is played by Mr Cole with a kind of languid ease, delicious broad vibrato; each melodic variation following the other quite inexorably, his sharp yet sumptuous alto sound brilliantly caught by George Heid and Jim Barr.
There is a brilliant, albeit unhurried quality to his approach, a lived-in character to his phrase-making that is enormously engaging and while it may sometime feel that it lacks the fire and brimstone of youth, it is more than compensated for by the well-honed values of experience. Nancy Kepner guests and leads an all-male chorus on Sol Lake’s classic, “The Lonely Bull”. The longtime band mates: guitarist Eric Susoeff, bassist Mark Perna and drummer Vince Taglieri are joined by pianist Kevin Moore and baritone saxophonist Rick Matt (the latter only on “The Lonely Bull”) while Mr Cole plays his boppish lines with real authority and swing. Make no mistake, there’s no slowing this man Richie Cole down because he still has much to offer.
Track list – 1: If I Only Had a Brain; 2: Cieto Lindo; 3: Leclipse Della Luna; 4: The Lonely Bull; 5: Serenata; 6: Laughter in the Rain; 7: Girl from Carnegie; 8: Harlem Nocturne; 9: Island Breeze; 10: Indicted for Love; 11: Malibu Breeze; 12: Almost like Being in Love
Personnel – Richie Cole: alto saxophone; Eric Susoeff: acoustic and electric guitars; Kevin Moore: piano and Fender Rhodes; Mark Perna: contrabass; Vince Taglieri: drums. With guests on Lonely Bull – Rick Matt: baritone saxophone; Vince Taglieri: castanets; Nancy Kepner: female vocals; Mark Perna and Richie Cole: male vocals; ‘Ole’ chorus: Richie Cole, Mark Perna, Jim Barr; Nancy Kepner, George Heid, Tony Goreczny
Released – 2017
Label – Richie Cole Productions
Runtime – 1:01:13