Alto saxophonist Richie Cole, with more than a quarter century of contributions to the jazz world under his belt, is perhaps best known for his four-year partnership with the late Eddie Jefferson.
The road was Jefferson and Cole's home. The pair toured the States in Cole's minivan, playing just about everywhere until 1979, when Jefferson was gunned down, gangland-style, outside Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. Cole's memories of Jefferson and the times haven't faded with the years: "A day doesn't go by that I don't think about the man. He was the world's greatest pure jazz singer."
Cole fell in love with jazz as a youngster, listening to the music at his father's jazz club in Trenton, New Jersey. He got his first horn at the age of 10, and while in high school, he was tutored by Phil Woods, with whom he later recorded the album Side By Side for Muse Records.
A tenure with Buddy Rich's big band beginning in 1969 is also included in Cole's professional career, as are stints in the 1970's with Doc Severinsen, Lionel Hampton and others. In the early 1980's he served as saxophonist for Manhattan Transfer, but has spent most of the last 15 years leading his own bands.
Although he's made over two dozen albums as a leader, Cole has gained much of his renown and success from a touring schedule that few other jazz artists can match. His live performances, seasoned liberally with the madcap humor that has become his trademark, continuously delight audiences that extend well beyond hard core jazz purists. His popularity as an entertainer has netted Cole a sizeable and enthusiastic following - one that consistently places him high in reader's polls conducted by Down Beat, Swing Journal, and other jazz publications.