Alto saxophonist Richie Cole
is a living, breathing anachronism and has arguably been one since he first burst out of Berklee School of Music onto the stage as featured soloist with the Buddy Rich big band in the 1970's.
While many of his contemporaries were following the lead of Chuck Berry
and The Beatles
, Cole was enamored of the music of Charlie Parker
and Bird's early disciples like Phil Woods
and Cannonball Adderley
Since then he has paired successfully with vocalist Eddie Jefferson
and, after the latter's untimely death, on his own as the prototypical bad boy of jazz. There is a kind of wild eyed sense of humor in Cole's often frenzied alto excursions and it is displayed unabashedly in The Many Minds of Richie Cole
Not only is there no coherent theme in this presentation, but Cole and his cohorts seem proud of it. His aggregation isn't called the Alto Madness Orchestra (AMO) for nothing and the group is madly all over the map here.
Cole has become more intrigued with arranging over the last few years and the AMO is a big part of his overall plan. He has a number of unique charts, written for an octet with the intent of emulating a big band.
Small big bands are nothing new. Basie, Ferguson and Goodman have all made similar efforts, mostly as cost cutting measures. But for Cole, this is a step up, as he is mostly known for his small group performances and recordings. AMO sounds big without sounding dense. There are some good, lithe passages and plenty of room for soloists, who range from good to superb -Cole himself being the most prominent.
The fifteen song album kicks off with "On A Clear Day" with an upbeat, smiling vocal by Cole followed by an equally exuberant alto solo. Cole is obviously having fun, adding a few extra remarks of his own to the lyrics.
On "Venus," Cole's alto soars over a nice carpet of brass in a medium Latin tempo. This tune is a little reminiscent of prom night, but a brief Parker influenced solo rescues it from getting too sentimental.
"Plan 9 From Outer Space" is a nine minute opus that begins with some spooky sound effects, and even the voicings seem to suggest an other world sensibility, with more than a hint of a sci fi sound track. The arrangement is almost Kenton-like, with thick chords and occasionally overly busy orchestration.
It eventually segues into a rock rhythm and Cole reaches outside the limits of bop, showing an appreciation of Eric Dolphy
"Sunset's Theme" is a happy and upbeat in a major key. Cole is full on bebop as he navigates through the changes, sticking fairly close to the melody. Rick Matt follows up with the first of several lusty Rollins influenced solos on tenor.
"They All Laughed" highlights singer Samantha St. John
, who does a credible job on this old standard. There are also short solo bows from Cole and trombonist Reggie Watkins
"Daddy Was A Pimp" is joyful Cole original, with a strong back beat. Cole again goes outside a bit, showing that he is not locked in a bebop prison. Matt returns for a long baritone feature, but he sounds a little forced and uncomfortable.
"The Common Touch" is a tune Cole played during his days traveling with vocalist Jefferson. His bebop roots are on full display.
"Moody's Mood for Love" -was Jefferson's anthem and one that Cole plays often in memory of his dear friend and colleague. Carey Jefferson Evans sounds very much like his name sake.
"Shadow Man" is a finger popping minor key nod to the jazzy melodies common to spy and detective shows. There is even a brief quote from the "Pink Panther Theme."
Matt starts things off with a solo that is reminiscent of Rollins on "Alfie's Theme." Watkins has a good outing on bone followed by a strong showing by trumpet player Joe Badaczewski
"Pittsburgh Connection" is an easy swinging bluesy tune. Watkins starts it out boldly with a hint of J.J. Johnson. Cole follows and then a very rock oriented guitar solo by Mark Lucas Band
"Thank You Phil Woods" is a medium slow tip of the hat to the late, great altoist, who shared the same alto fire that Cole epitomizes. No real solos, just a warm ensemble and a quick verbal note from the leader.
"Julian's Theme" sounds like something from Sesame Street. A simple, playful melody that Cole turns into a straight ahead boppish feature.
"Deep In The Heart of Pittsburgh" has hints of "Freedom Jazz Dance" before transitioning to a medium tempo samba. Matt has his best outing here, building up to a fiery crescendo on tenor.
"I Have A Home in Pittsburgh" is the only real ballad on the CD. Cole plays a really heart felt alto, expressing his love for his adopted home town, soaring over a dense foundation of brass and reeds.
The Village People's "YMCA" is a throwaway, just to lighten the mood. The assembled group vocal sounds like it was taped at a frat party.
Cole has been recording prolifically since he has moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania a few years back. Having found a coterie of fellow boppers in the neighborhood, he seems to have found a home to settle into.
This album is a good representation of Cole's writing and arranging skills, while reminding us that this alto voice with roots in the 1940's still remains relevant and fun today.
On A Clear Day; Venus; Plan 9 From Outer Space; Sunset's Theme; they All Laughed; Daddy Was A Pimp; The Common Touch; Moody's Mood For Love; Shadow Man; Pittsburgh Connection; thank You Phil Woods; Julian's Theme; Deep In The Heart Of Pittsburgh; I have A Home In Pittsburgh; YMCA
Richie Cole: alto, vocal(1); Reggie Watkins: tenor, baritone; J.D. Chiasson: trumpet (4,6,10,11,13, 14, 15); Joe Badaczewski: trumpet (1,2,3,4,8,9,12); Patrick Whitehead: piano; Eric Susoeff: guitar (6,7,11,13); Mark Lucas:guitar (10,13); James Popik:guitar(15); Mark Perna: upright bass, fretless bass, electric bass; Vince Taglierie: drums(1,12,14,15); George Heid III: drums(12); George Jones: conga(2,4,9,13,14); George Heid III:conga(13); George Heid III: bongos(3,15); Samantha St. John:vocal(5); Carey Jefferson:vocal(8); Reni Monteverde:vocal(8); Jim Barr:fender Rhodes(10); Ben Opie:theremin(3): David Leif Gerjouy:washboard(15); Richie Cole, Reggie Watkins, Rick Matt, J.D. Chaisson, Patricke Whitehead, Jim Barr, Alex Otey Davied Leif Gerjouy, Vince Taglieri, James Popik: vocal chorus(15)