Risë's Rose Garden
is a compelling, if not profound, statement of Richie Cole's vision of "Alto Madness, the saxophonist's respectful allusion to the Sonny Rollins/John Coltrane lower reed affliction. The disc was recorded in the wake of Cole's wife's death last yearand if, as paraphrased by the late Will Durant, the greatest beauty is begat of heartbreak, then Risë's Rose Garden
exists as a temporal definition of this process.
Like many of Cole's Alto Madness recordings, particularly those with larger groups, Garden is a look back through modern spectacles, transforming well-known and not so well-known material through a Swing Era filterviewed, as always with Cole, from the vantage of bebop. Cole has made a cottage industry of applying bebop concepts to all the material that comes his way (for an example, spin his recent Back On Top, also on Jazz Excursion).
The band Cole has assembled for Risë's Rose Garden is made of platinum and plays as such. To his regular army, Cole has added trumpeter Jack Walrath, guitarist Vic Juris and pianist Don Friedman, each of whom receives ample solo space. The opening title composition is as bright and sunny as any Cole tune. He presents it very much as an ensemble piece and allows his fine band to shine.
As ever (and appropriately), the majority of the two-disc set finds Cole's bright alto front and center, emerging fully on the second selection, "There will Never be Another You, comped perfectly by Juris' guitar, who takes the second solo after Cole, playing in precise, round bebop tones warmed by ample reverb. Cole, Juris, and drummer Wayne Dunton trade friendly eights in grand style before returning to the effervescent head of the melody.
Of greatest pleasures on Risë's Rose Garden are the inevitable surprises. "Canadian Sunset is transformed from Jug Ammons' smoky bar piece to a big band caravan, carrying Miller, Goodman, Dorsey, Ellington, and even a little Basie in Don Friedman's piano chording. "Speak Low again showcases Friedman in a full-bodied environment traveling at the velocity of bop.
"Ewing Cha Cha displays Cole's Latin wares in both arrangement and performance. Cole arranges (like Bobby Watson) as if Latin Jazz were made for the alto saxophone. Bobby Darin is everywhere these days, and here Cole conjures a swinging "Beyond the Sea, sporting a handy introduction and solo by Vic Juris. The trumpets are given reign on the melody while the reeds weave a complex harmony.
And finally, Cole infuses "Blueberry Hill, not a jazz tune at all, with the fragrant metaphor of Risë's Garden. It is not rock, Creole or jazzit is music. Music is all Richie Cole has ever been about, and Risë's Rose Garden deserves a place on 2006's best-of lists.
Personnel: Richie Cole: alto saxophone; Bobby Howell: tenor saxophone; Nathan Eklund: trumpet; Chris Jaudes: trumpet; Jack Walrath: trumpet; Rick Stepton: trombone; Vic Juris: guitar; Don Friedman: piano; Rick Crane: bass; Wayne Dunton: drums;
Ray Mantilla: percussion.