Richie Cole: West Side Story

This is a winner, not only for Cole’s bubbly bebop alto saxophone but also for the imaginative sextet arrangements and the revival of Leonard Bernstein’s score that includes “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Tonight” and others. Ray Mantilla’s percussion adds the necessary Latin flavor to the performances. The predominant melody sound is Cole’s alto in unison with Vic Juris’ guitar an octave lower. But sometimes there is three-part counterpoint among Cole, Juris and pianist Lou Forestieri. Bassist Ed Howard and drummer Tommy Campbell complete this excellent, larger-than-life combo.

Percussion introduces “America,” whereas “Something’s Coming” emerges from contrapuntal lines. Cole treats the ballads “Maria” and “Somewhere,” strong melodic tunes, to worthy improvisation-passionate but not overdone. For the finale, the group plays “West Side Blues,” a Cole original that incorporates snippets of Bernstein’s melodies into its own groove. Hear, hear.