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Richie Cole & The Alto Madness Orchestra: Back On Top (2005)

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Richie Cole & The Alto Madness Orchestra: Back On Top How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

It is gratifying to find that altoist Richie Cole, one of the major jazz personalities of the 1970s, is still playing at the same high level on this album, which marks his 25th date as a leader. After lengthy contracts with Muse and Palo Alto Records, his albums since the 1990s have been relatively infrequent.

The Alto Madness Orchestra is something of a misnomer, inasmuch as there are only four horns in this septet. In his liner notes, Cole maintains that not wishing to deal with a full orchestra, he has devised a methodology to create a big band sound utilizing only trumpet, tenor and alto saxophones, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums. I would have been better off not reading these notes, for the sound of the group is incredibly full. Richie Cole has amassed over five thousand compositions for the orchestra. An old acquaintance, John Sutton, recently approached Cole about being the first artist on his new label, and this session was recorded for Jazz Excursion Records in June, 2005.

These ten tracks comprise a vibrant and brightly performed set. Richie Cole's fluent bebop style is nearly identical to his exuberant playing decades ago. Although Cole is credited with all arrangements and compositions, the closing "Portrait of Jenny" was a late '40s movie theme and "Don't Misunderstand" is a Gordon Parks composition that has become a jazz standard.

The ensemble work is well-performed and the featured soloists, other than Cole, include veteran tenor man Billy Ross on "Jazz Excursion," trombonist Rick Stepton on "Don't Misunderstand," trumpeter Nathan Eklund on "I Love Bebop," and guitarist Andrei Riabov on "A Walk in the Park." Several musical quotes are included in order to keep listeners on their toes, such as a reference to "Cherokee" in "I Love Bebop" and the end of "Jazz Excursion," which features the familiar riff from "Freedom Jazz Dance."

Track Listing: Remembering Oliver Nelson; Jazz Excursion; A Walk in the Park; Uncle Freddy; Home Town; Don't Misunderstand; Back on Top; Relaxin' at the Candlelight(Trenton Style); I Love Bebop; Portrait of Jenny.

Personnel: Richie Cole: alto saxophone; Billy Ross: tenor saxophone; Rick Stepton: trombone; Nathan Eklund: trumpet; Andrei Riabov:guitar; Rick Crane: bass; Wayne Dunton: drums.

Record Label: Jazz Excursion Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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