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January/February 2006

Richie Cole & the Alto Madness Orchestra
Back on Top
Jazz Excursion

It's been over three decades since a young Richie Cole brought his Phil Woods-style alto to the Buddy Rich band. Since that time, Cole has progressively made his name as a virtuosic follower of Charlie Parker via Woods, recording more than two dozen albums of his own. His last recording of new music was released in 1997, but Back on Top shows Cole to still be in fine form. It features not only his still-bopping alto but also his arrangements of originals and a pair of standards scored for a septet that sounds at times a lot like a big band (Cole's stated goal) and at other times a bit like a 1950s West Coast ensemble. Either way, the band achieves a nice sound, and the players do a very good job of executing the often difficult charts.

As a soloist, Cole is still his spirited self, tossing off his bebop licks and trademark humorous quotes with easy facility, although on the very fast title tune, based on "Cherokee," his execution is less surefooted than usual. Other excellent soloists are tenorist Bill Ross, trombonist Rick Stepton, trumpeter Nathan Eklund and guitarist Andrei Riabov. Bassist Rick Crane and drummer Wayne Dunton anchor the proceedings.

Originally published in January/February 2006
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