For his first-ever all-Latin collection in a career closing in on a half-century, the alto saxophonist Richie Cole doesn’t pretend to rewrite his own history or that of the genre. There are no congas here, just a basic jazz quintet with its own ideas about what Latin means. The accents are tucked unobtrusively into the arrangements. Hell, if he’d wanted authenticity, he likely wouldn’t have started the set with The Wizard of Oz’s “If I Only Had a Brain.”
That offbeat choice is, in fact, among the highlights of Latin Lover: The Arlen-Harburg perennial swings briskly, Cole’s sprightly alto and Vince Taglieri’s spirited drumming giving the tune a good-natured lilt. Cole’s other cover choices are equally novel—the Neil Sedaka hit “Laughter in the Rain” has never sounded like this before, and the Lerner-Loewe standard “Almost Like Being in Love” provides a showcase for the stellar guitar work of Eric Susoeff. The 1962 Herb Alpert hit “The Lonely Bull,” the only tune augmented by outside players and vocalists, is utterly transformed, its tempo notched down and an air of mystery embedded within the melody.