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Steve Cole: NY LA

On his third album, NY LA (Warner), contemporary-jazz saxophonist Steve Cole demonstrates that he’s not afraid to try some new things with his music. Sure, there are plenty of tracks here that would sound right at home on smooth-jazz radio, like the assertive, hooky title track, the romantic “Love Letter,” and “Everyday,” on which Cole’s sassy tenor rides a thumping groove. But there’s more going on here than just radio-friendly smooth jazz, as evidenced by the live track “Keep It Live,” which finds Cole vibing with a funky acid-jazz ensemble led by two hip-hop artists. The album’s two other vocal tracks, “Tonight It’s On” and “Every Little Thing,” are pleasant enough, but Cole’s sax isn’t much in evidence on either track, which makes him sound like a sideman on his own album. The album’s strongest track is the mournful ballad “Missing You”: Cole clearly understands that an understated approach can deliver the most eloquent statement, and he turns in a spare, simply articulated, and quite affecting performance.

Originally Published