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Risës Rose Garden by Richie Cole and The Alto Madness Orchestra

The evolution of the big band has emphasized intricate charts and unusual instrumentation. I have reviewed many of the resulting CDs and have been impressed. However, Richie Cole's Alto Madness Orchestra blew me away with its straight-ahead drive and strong solos. Like those power-packed Terry Gibbs Dream Bands of some years back this orchestra's performance is a tribute to the seemingly inexhaustible energy of its leader and the high caliber of its musicians. And it isn't even a big band, although it fooled me at first listen. Now that's arranging!

The group on Risë's Rose Garden, a double CD release, is made up of alto, tenor, trumpet, trombone and rhythm with contributions by guests Don Friedman (filling the piano chair), Jack Walrath, Vic Juris and Ray Mantilla. They arrived in the studio, well-tuned and well-toned, following eight sold-out sets at Jazz Standard in New York City. Their program includes a variety of Cole originals and standards. Among Cole's compositions are "Garden in the Morning," done in 12/8 ballad style, and several Latin tunes, "Nightfall" and "Ewing Cha Cha," enhanced by Mantilla's percussion. There are some intriguing choices of standards: "Blueberry Hill," "Beyond the Sea," and "Canadian Sunset."

Here are a few of my highlights. I'm sure you'll find others of your own.

"Speak Low": A workshop in small group swing featuring plenty of agility by Friedman.

"Another You": Guitarist Juris and Cole burn through this jam session favorite.

"Three East": Solos for all and a sparkling trumpet duel between Nathan Ecklund and Walrath.

"Peggy's Blue Skylight": Walrath's contribution to Cole's nice tight chart of this Mingus composition.

"Psycho-la-Tron": Those ensemble passages!

"Now I Have Everything": The intensity and tenderness of Cole's alto on this Bock/Harnick ballad.

"Risë's Rose Garden" was recorded under difficult circumstances. Richie Cole's wife, Risë, passed away just days earlier and this CD is dedicated to her memory and in recognition of her significant contributions to his career. The title track is a carefree jazz waltz, beautifully played - a celebration of the life of Risë Cole.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Richie Cole and The Alto Madness Orchestra
  • CD Title: Risës Rose Garden
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Jazz Excursion
  • Rating: Five Stars
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