October 1998

Steve Cole
Stay Awhile

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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