Happy Birthday Richie Cole

February 29, 1948

A Leap-Year birthday tribute to the bebop great

Alto saxophonist Richie Cole was born February 29, 1948 in Trenton, New Jersey.

Cole’s father owned a jazz club in New Jersey so he grew up around jazz.

He began playing alto sax when he was ten, attended Berklee for two years, and in 1969 became a member of the Buddy Rich Orchestra.

After a stint with Lionel Hampton, Cole (who early on was influenced by Phil Woods and Charlie Parker) put together his own band, coming up with the concept of “Alto Madness” which is basically proving that any song (even those from unlikely sources) can be turned into exciting bebop, even “Hooray For Hollywood,” ”The I Love Lucy Theme,” “La Bamba” and “Yakety Sax.”.

One of the few major musicians from his generation who worked on keeping bebop alive in the 1970s and ‘80s, Cole recorded with Woods, Eric Kloss, Hank Crawford, Art Pepper, Sonny Stitt, Paquito D’Rivera and the Manhattan Transfer, co-led a band with Eddie Jefferson, and had such sidemen in his groups as guitarist Bruce Forman and pianist Bobby Enriquez.

Despite some ups and downs, Richie Cole has been flourishing during the past few years, living happily in Pittsburgh and still playing his exuberant brand of bebop at the peak of his powers.

Richie Cole is featured back in 1981 playing an explosive version of “Yardbird Suite” with the very spirited pianist Bobby Enriquez and Bruce Forman.

Personnel:

Richie Cole, alto
Bobby Enriquez, piano
Bruce Forman, guitar
Marshall Hawkins, bass
Scotty Morris, drums

-Scott Yanow