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December 2006

Steve Cole
True
Narada Media

If the title of Steve Cole’s fifth CD is true to its True title, you should expect more of the same in the future from the Chicago saxophonist. On his previous CD, Spin, Cole took up the guitar and was inspired by downtempo rhythms and singer-songwriters like Jason Mraz and John Mayer. So what’s the “true” verdict with no “spin”? Here it is: This is precisely the right CD for Cole at this point in his career, meaning he’s already proved he can write tasty pop instrumentals with hum-along melodies and drop-dead hooks. Now he shows he has some real jazz chops. This is still a smooth-jazz record, and a great one. But it’s also a funky, soulful, jubilant nine-song ride from a guy who can really get down on the horn. Hey, and it’s all original songs. How’s that for a bonus in today’s cover-lovin’ world?

Save for the ballad “Come With Me,” on which Cole plays some rare soprano, True is an upbeat affair, from the 1970s funk of “Just a Natural Thang” and “Something About You” to the good-time club feel of the appropriately named “Bounce.” And although the bold and brassy “Take Me” is pure pop and as anthemic as anything he’s done, the standout track here is “Cote Seine.” It’s a showcase for Cole’s jazz chops and changes direction about halfway through with a swinging jazz interlude propelled by a running acoustic bass line.

Originally published in December 2006
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