Steve Cole: Between Us

Chicago saxophonist Steve Cole’s Between Us (Atlantic 41:18) suffers from undermining a competent player’s strength with bland, uninspiring arrangements. Album opener “Got It Goin’ On,” for example, boasts an elegant multihorn sound, with Cole’s smoky alto in the lead. The backdrop, however, is derivative of literally thousands of other urban sax releases, rendering the hooky tune undistinguished. Details provide an occasional shot of adrenaline, like prickly guitar on “From the Start” and Cole’s bustling alto work on “So Into You,” but these flashes are hidden between colorless ballads like “Between Us” and “Take Me Home.” The best moments here step out of character-a funky snippet titled “Interlude” shakes things up with some whirling organ and Cole’s cornered, funky soprano, and “Waterfalls” shows a leaner, funkier outlook, with guitar bristles anchoring a stand-up anthemic melody for some true inspiration.