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Richie Cole: Pittsburgh

Jack Bowers By

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After a lifetime of movin' on that has taken him from Trenton, NJ, to cities, towns and hamlets across the country and around the world, it seems that alto saxophonist Richie Cole, now fifty-eight, is at last ready to settle down and plant some roots. As he declares in his latest album's opening number, "I Have a Home in Pittsburgh"—and there's a palpable sense that this time he means it. If Cole's wandering days are indeed behind him, what remains constant is the warm and happy sound of his alto, the centerpiece of what is essentially a quintet session whose sidemen are presumably from the Pittsburgh area.

As always, Cole seems to be having a ton of fun, and as always, his choice of music is eclectic and predictably off-center, meandering from such disparate standards as "I'll Be Seeing You," "Flying Down to Rio," "The Gypsy" and "Tomorrow" (from the Broadway smash Annie) to Benny Carter's sumptuous samba, "Key Largo," and a trio of his own sunny compositions, "I Have a Home in Pittsburgh," "Who's the Man Corrupting Richie Cole" (co-written with drummer Reid Hoyson) and "Happy Valentine's Day, Candace."

"Home" opens as a ballad before upshifting into a buoyant foxtrot on which Cole shows that time has beclouded neither his admirable technique nor his deep storehouse of engaging ideas. Guitarist Mark Lucas and pianist Jeff Lashway add spirited solos, setting the stage for the true ballad, "I'll Be Seeing You," the rhythmic Astaire / Rogers staple, "Flying Down to Rio," and British songwriter Billy Reid's mega-hit from 1946, "The Gypsy" ("In a quaint caravan . . ."), on which Lashway briefly channels another Pittsburgh legend, the late Erroll Garner. "Who's the Man" is a delightful romp with free and easy solos by Cole (who is last in line), Lucas, Lashway, Hoyson and bassist Jeff Grubbs, "Key Largo" a breath of Latin fresh air on which Cole is at his easygoing best. After offering his heartfelt valentine to "Candace," Cole wraps things up with the earnest and uplifting anthem, "Tomorrow." Here as elsewhere, Cole's bandmates are vigilant and supportive.

Welcome home, Richie. Pittsburgh seems to be a good fit—for your talents and your heart. And once you've settled in, fans can look forward to a rebirth of the Alto Madness Orchestra, Pittsburgh-style.

Track Listing: 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 Lashway: piano (1-5, 7); Patrick Whitehead: piano (6, 8); Mark Lucas: guitar; Jeff Grubbs: bass (1-5, 7); Mark Perna: bass (6, 8); Reid Hoyson: drums, percussion; George Jones: congas.

Title: Pittsburgh | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Richie Cole Presents


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