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October 1998

Steve Cole
Stay Awhile
Bluemoon

The good news is that Steve Cole stands out as an exciting new voice among contemporary saxophonists. His warm, understated tenor in particular has a unique introspective quality, capturing the emotional content of his melody lines. The bad news is that Cole's debut album, Stay Awhile (Atlantic/Bluemoon 92797-2; 44:31), tends to bury his unique voice under layers and layers of urban-contemporary ornaments. The album, produced by urban mood-scape It-boy Brian Culbertson, sounds largely like... well, a Brian Culbertson album-with a bit more focus on the sax. Annoying, thudding drum programs ("Intimacy"), squishy, echoing synthesizer effects ("Where the Night Begins," "Say it Again"), needless, repeat-the-title backgound vocals ("It's Gonna Be Alright") and dead-stop slow grooves ("Think About It") detract endlessly from Cole's solid leads on soprano as well as tenor. The cumulative effect is that all the songs begin to sound alike-not sexy, just dull. A nice exception (and one to grow on for next time) is the tender and warm "Our Love." With its graceful gospel quality, this piece gives Cole's long-lined play the exposure it deserves.

Originally published in October 1998
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