Back in 2013 I described ‘Pulse’ by powerhouse saxophonist Steve Cole as taking him back to his roots with the sort of vibe that characterized earlier projects such as ‘Stay Awhile’ and ‘Between Us’. It was produced, and substantially co-written, by fellow saxophonist David Mann so it is great news that Cole has again teamed with Mann for his latest venture, ‘Turn It Up’, which will hit the streets July 15 on the always-excellent Artistry Music label.
The muscular horn section and soul-powered grooves that typify much of the magic that Cole and Mann make together is evident as soon as the opening track, ‘Sidechain’. It is vintage Cole and then some while another big, beefy and totally compelling number is the ultra catchy ‘Laws Of Attraction’.
Talking of vintage, that unique Steve Cole sound has never sounded better than with the radio ready title cut that he writes with the unrelated but highly rated Nicholas Cole and another cool collaboration comes in the form of the dazzling ‘Bright Side’ that is written by Pieces Of A Dream stalwart James Lloyd who also features on piano.
This is not an album where Cole frequently takes his foot off the gas. However, when he does, the effect can be quite breathtaking. Take for example the mellifluous ‘Life Is A Groove’ or the smoky ‘Mirage’ where Mann’s work on keys evokes a feeling that is grounded in understated electronica. Even better is the easy grooving ‘Reverence’ yet in terms of personal favorites the hard driving, dance floor orientated, ‘Workhouse’ is a gem.
Much the same can be said of Cole’s ‘full on’ interpretation of Bobby Womack’s ‘Woman’s Gotta Have It’ which is certain to be in my listing of the year’s best covers but, all things considered, the Smooth Jazz Therapy top tune just has to be the fabulous ‘She’s The One’. This slice of no frills, no bullshit smooth jazz will be as good as anything you will hear either this year or the next.
Make no mistake ‘Turn It Up’ is the real contemporary jazz deal and with musical contributions from Mann, Bernd Schoenhart on guitar, Ricky Peterson with Hammond B3 and Cole’s fellow Chicago cats bass-man Lamar Jones and drummer Khari Parker this one comes hugely recommended.