If you’ve wondered what Richie Cole is up to these days, he’s in Pittsburgh. He moved there in 2014. He is still practicing Alto Madness, a motto he adopted 40 years ago, as a name for his various bands and a description of his musical ideology. Cole is a rational saxophonist, but he plays modern bebop with a passion on the near edge of madness.
Perhaps it was a laidback Pittsburgh vibe that inspired him to finally do a ballads album. Perhaps it was a cool, clear, deliberate Pittsburgh rhythm section (guitarist Eric Susoeff, bassist Mark Perna, drummer Vince Taglieri). In any case, Cole and his Alto Madness are just right for ballads. His hard, slightly brittle tone, penetrating vibrato and headlong forward thrust all preclude sentimentality.