Richie Cole Plays Ballads and Love Songs

I met alto saxophonist Richie Cole—a fiery kind of guy—in 1980 when he came to Chico for a jazz concert at Chico State. Then in his early 30s, he’d already made eight records, several with vocalist Eddie Jefferson and one with fellow altoman Phil Woods, who’d mentored him. Cole’s “Alto Madness” combo defiantly stuck to playing bebop, the kind of jazz that was the antithesis of the sort of jazz fusion that was so popular then. He has gone on to make 40 more records beginning in 2003 with his Alto Madness Orchestra, a septet that features four horns. Here, however, he’s with a trio—guitarist Eric Susoeff, bassist Mark Perna and drummer Vince Taglieri—whose understated accompaniment is perfect. “I don’t play the saxophone,” Cole says, “I sing the saxophone,” and Richie Cole Plays Ballads and Love Songs is magnificent proof. Its 11 tracks include a lovely extended version of “Emily.” Susoeff’s remarkable playing on every selection is another plus. This is a beautiful album—grab it while you can!