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Landing in Pittsburgh and Loving It Madly

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Now that his early mentor, Phil Woods as left the room, Richie Cole is arguably the most genuine acolyte of classic alto Bop tradition on the jazz scene today. With four albums released over the last four years, Cole is certainly letting it all fly. Always a player of terrific technical skills, Cole's work delivers consistent swing and a flair for the serendipitous. Stepping back a step and up to date, two fine albums are explored.

Richie Cole
Pittsburgh
Richie Cole Presents
2015

Originally, released in 2015, Pittsburgh (not long after he relocated there after a few nomadic years) has Cole and a ace Pittsburgh rhythm section swinging hard through eight terrific offerings-three originals and the balance handful superbly selected and marvelously performed. The total package on this Welcome Wagon is an upbeat, swinging session. Cole, always a joyous player—and happy soul—again is wizard-like and performs with complete effervescence and technical mastery. The swinging opener, "I Have a Home in Pittsburgh," sets the stage and other up-tempo fare "Flying Down to Rio" and the "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" contrafact, "Who's the Man Corrupting Richie Cole" all have Cole and his Madness Men burning. Cole's terrific ballad approach, something shaded by his technical mastery is on display with deeply involved takes on "I'll Be Seeing You," "The Gypsy," and Broadway's Annie's "Tomorrow." Rarely played these days, Benny Carter's ballad, "Key Largo" is a superb cover. Across the board, Cole is engaging, simply brilliant and a fun listen. The rhythm section here is a kitchen of Steeltown cookers, each of whom are fully caught up in Cole's alto gladness.

Richie Cole
The Keys of Cool
Self Produced
2019

Cole has recorded duo-fronted albums with many jazz greats including Eddie Jefferson, Sonny Stitt and even "Yakety Sax"'s Boots Randolph. He hasn't gotten around to a Mantovani-like string session, as he once wanted, but, who knows what the Kid from Trenton has under his beret? Here he is completely simpatico with B-3 cooker, Tony Monaco on 11 fine tracks. The fare is a broad array of grooves from the straight-ahead burner, Monaco's "I Remember Jimmy" tribute, three 60s pop hits—"Our Day Will Come," "I Wish You Love," and "It's Not Unusual" -and a handful of Cole (the triple-metered "No Longer Alone") and Monaco originals (the exotic "Indonesian Nights"). In the years since 2015's "Pittsburgh," Cole has continued to be a prodigious performer and recording artist, maintaining a blistering performance schedule and continuing to churn out original fare that consistently reeks of the jazzman's upbeat personality. The Keys of Cool is cool indeed. The session is, like Cole, a throwback to the days when it was all about tunes and the swinging-honest jazz. That's what makes him such a genuine and beloved performer. He is as honest in what he delivers as they come. Monaco is an underrated star here, as he is everywhere. He's a Jimmy Smith disciple, but, swings heavily on his own and drives the date bus. Ace cool mates Hoyson, Lucas, and Quintana are in for the long and swinging haul and are perfect compadres for Cole and each other. This is a well-grooved machine. Now in his 70s, Cole appears to be as consistently swinging and energized as ever. He's not only cool, a pearl in a sea of less-swinging lights and happy at home in Pittsburgh.

Tracks and Personnel

Pittsburgh

Tracks: I Have a Home in Pittsburgh; I'll Be Seeing You; Flying Down to Rio; The Gypsy; Who's the Man Corrupting Richie Cole; Key Largo; Happy Valentine's Day, Candace; Tomorrow.

Personnel: Richie Cole: alto sax; Jeff Grubbs: bass; Mark Perna: bass (6,8); George Jones: congas; Reid Hoyson: drums and percussion; Mark Lucas: guitar; Jeff Lashway: piano; Patrick Whitehead: piano (6,8).

The Keys of Cool

Tracks: I Remember Jimmy; Canadian Sunset; I Wish You Love; Our Day Will come; No Longer Alone; Indonesian Nights; It's Not Unusual; Sunday in New York; Starburst; Trenton Makes, The World Takes; Waltz for a Rainy Bebop Afternoon.

Personnel: Richie Cole: alto sax; Tony Monaco: B-3 organ; Reid Hoyson: drums and percussion; Mark Lucas: guitar; Noel Quintana: congas and bongos.
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