The return to an active performance and recording career by altoist Richie Cole is one of the happier events in the jazz world of the Nineties. Cole is quick to delegate credit for the success of his second Heads Up release Kush: The Music of Dizzy Gillespie. "It was Dave Love's idea for me to record a set of Dizzy Gillespie tunes and I was very agreeable," says Cole. "This was the first time I'd met Bob Belden, who arranged all of the music. He kept the writing simple but it was very effective, putting me in a lot of different settings, from an 18-piece band down to a trio with two guitars. I basically just had the melody of the song written out with the chords, and Bob would point at me and say 'Play!' or wave me out and say 'Stop!' We did the whole album in one day, just six hours."
Of the impressive sidemen, several of the more notable players have worked extensively with Cole in the past. "Vic Juris and Ray Mantilla have been playing with me for over 15 years, while Jack Walrath and Sam Burtis and I went to Berklee together in Boston," explains Cole. "Paquito D'Rivera and I have known each other for quite a while but, while we've played several concerts, this is the first time we've actually recorded together."
In making a tribute recording, Cole reminisced about his experiences with Gillespie. "He was a very nice guy," says Cole. "When I was a kid, every time I'd see him and say 'Hello, Diz' he would remember me and ask how my saxophone was coming. He and Cannonball Adderley were both that way, very personable and able to relate to their audiences very well. That's the approach I aim for in my performances, because I appreciate the people being out there spending their hard-earned money to come see me."