Print Shortlink

Cole, Richie (29th February 1948-2nd May 2020)

He was an alto saxophonist, composer and arranger born in Trenton, New Jersey, whose father was a jazz club owner. He began playing the instrument when he was 10 years old in various school orchestras and bands and was awarded a scholarship to take further studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. After two years he decided to follow the path of a professional career in music and became known for his own style of performing bebop and jazz.

Starting out, he  played with the Buddy Rich Big Band in 1969 before moving to the Lionel Hampton Big Band, later still, Doc Severin’s Big Band. He then started working with Eddie Jefferson in 1975 and remained with him for four years until he passed away.

He became known for his work as a solo artist, releasing his own albums and making many international tours, and also a much sought after session musician called upon by many jazz acts to grace their recordings. Sometime in the first years of the 1990s he established his seven-piece Alto Madness Orchestra, which manages to sound equally as effective with a big band sound as it does if it were a small ensemble.

A prolific composer and arranger, he wrote or arranged more than 5,000 works for his own orchestra as well as symphony orchestras and big bands, sometimes with up to ten of his own compositions written during the period of one day. His works include “A Night in Siberia” which he premiered in Siberia with the Red Army Big Band in Siberia itself.

The albums he appeared on are many and include his own Alto Annie’s Theme, Alto Madness, Back On Top, Cool “C”, Hollywood Madness, Keeper of the Flame, Kush: Music of Dizzy Gillespie, Plays West Side Story and Yakety Sax as well as Wildman Meets the Madman by Bobby Enriquez & Richie Cole, Godfather of Vocalese by Eddie Jefferson, Extensions by The Manhattan Transfer , Roadrunner by Buddy Miles, Swiss Suite by Oliver Nelson, Buddy & Soul by Buddy Rich and Old Songs for the New Depression by Ben Sidran , to name but a few.

He was listed in the Marquis Who’s Who in America in 2006 and continued to perform and record with his Alto Madness Orchestra and appear at various jazz festivals. He and his orchestra gave many masterclasses at educational establishments the world over and worked at Spain’s University of Madrid for at least six years in a row. He also formed the Alto Madness Junior Orchestra, which is aimed at children between 10 and 16 and was a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators.

In recognition for his contribution to music he received the State of California Congressional Certificate of Lifetime Achievement in Jazz in 2005.

He died of natural causes in May 2020 when he was 72 years old.

The Manhattan Transfer Recordings
Body & Soul
(Edward Heyman/Robert Sour/Frank Eyton/Johnny Green) Atlantic: K11476 B (UK45)

Here he is on alto sax performing “Yard Bird Suite” with his Richie Cole Quintet…