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Jazz - Released July 15, 2016 | Artistry Music

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Contemporary Jazz - Released November 14, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

Burgeoning smooth jazz superstar Steve Cole continues to bridge the gap between pop-jazz and classic R&B on his third studio album, NY LA. Featuring strong melodic statements and truly funky keyboards via the likes of Brian Culbertson and Marquis "Hami" Dair, NY LA is a moody and solid affair. From the disco-influenced "Off Broadway," which harkens back to the best work of the Crusaders, to the Donald Byrd-esque "Interlude IV," tenor saxophonist Cole deftly crosses the boundary from jazz soloist to R&B heavyweight. More Grover Washington, Jr. than Kenny G., Cole manages to keep things organic and simple -- despite the use of programmed drum beats and synthesizers -- a lesson some of his contemporaries could learn. Also adding depth are the vocal tracks featuring the crisply soulful Mauli B., whose star-making performance on "Every Little Thing" is a highlight on this already stellar release. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Narada

With his trademark robust, in-your-face horn textures, the Chicago-based funky smooth jazz saxman has the rare genre gift of instant recognizability. That same energy sets the vibe on his spiffy, in the pocket Narada Jazz debut , but with a unique twist. Rather than sticking with the heavy urban flavors of the discs that made him an instrumental star, he takes a more singer/songwriter-oriented approach here, drawing from modern rock inspirations like John Mayer, Maroon 5 and Five for Fighting. For this endeavor, which truly is a Spin on the way he has done business in the past, Steve Cole bought his first acoustic guitar and wrote all the songs on it. This instrument and some hypnotic piano at the beginning of the opening track "Thursday" serve the role of organic enhancement to -- rather than replacement for -- his powerful sax thrust, which is dead-on perfect on instant hits like "The Real Me." From there, he takes some cool risks, going the gentle, back porch country-rock route on "Simple Things" (with Ricky Peterson on organ), bluesy on the feisty "Spin" (which may remind listeners of some of Mindi Abair's best guitar-flavored sax cuts), and sweetly melancholic on the heartfelt "A Letter to Laura." The simmering, anthemic southern rocker "I Was Alright" blends the classic Cole horn textures with an aggressive, guitar-driven harmony line. Some say that chillout is the hybrid future of smooth jazz, and the trippy soprano ballad "Serenity" -- which draws its inspiration from Zero 7 -- shows that Cole can also relax and seduce us gently when he likes. The final track "Confounded" was inspired by Beck and breaks up from its straightforward pop/blues vibe for an all-too-short blowing section where Cole breaks loose. A little more of that improvisational fun would have made Spin, already one of the best genre releases of 2005, worth even a few hundred more. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released July 26, 2019 | Artistry Music

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Jazz - Released May 1, 1998 | Mesa - Bluemoon

Atlantic was obviously going after the new adult contemporary (NAC) market when it released Steve Cole's Stay Awhile, a contrived and unimaginative blend of pop, urban contemporary and jazz. It's clear that the main goal of this tenor, alto and soprano saxman (who shouldn't be confused with avant-garde saxman Steve Coleman) was appealing to NAC radio, and the result is faceless, boring elevator muzak that has nothing meaningful or personal to say. From the Kenny G-ish "Say It Again" to schlocky fluff like "Our Love," "It's Gonna Be Alright" and the title tune, Cole plays cliché after cliché and does nothing to set his album apart from similar releases by Gerald Albright, Dave Koz and Najee. This isn't a bad CD because it's commercial; it's bad because it's done in such a knee-jerk, insincere fashion. Lacking even a shred of integrity, Stay Awhile is a CD to stay away from. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released September 17, 2013 | Artistry Music

Steve Cole's seventh solo studio album, 2013's Pulse, is a smooth and funky collection of electronic-infused jazz. The album follows his 2011 orchestral covers album Moonlight, and returns him to a more contemporary crossover jazz sound. Backing Cole here are keyboardists Nicholas Cole and Ricky Peterson, guitarist Bernd Schoenhart, drummer Khari Parker, and bassist Paul Peterson. Also featured are trumpeter Trevor Neumann, trombonist Dan Levine, saxophonist David Mann, and vocalists Nicki Richards and Rico McFarland. This is laid-back yet passionate music that should appeal to Cole's longtime fans. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Narada

Even if this Chicago-based saxman has always been one of the most grittily soulful of today's top smooth jazz artists, there's always been the sneaking suspicion on his previous four release that he'd been holding out somewhat -- covering his truest funk-jazz with way too much slick pop sheen. If the title of this superior collection is indicative of the true persona that's here to stay, then genre fans will be in for a powerful adventure. There are none of those right-in-your-face catchy/fluffy pop hooks, at least not right away; a potent live ensemble backs the jumpy, David Sanborn-esque opener "Bounce," which builds to a bluesy jam with wilder playing than usual. "Cote Seine" matches the hot modern chill vibe with some of Steve Cole's most low-key, cool playing ever recorded. Could it be he finally learned that less is more? He finally gets to his trademark horn texturing on "Curtis," but does so in the dreamy, retro-soul spirit of his hometown legend Curtis Mayfield. "Just a Natural Thang" starts with a strong pop hook, but its trappings are loose and bluesy rather than superproduced. Even on the more overtly commercial tracks like the disco-meets-Memphis-driven "Metro," Cole captures the magic of his fiery live performance. "Take Me" reminds us of the lighthearted singer/songwriter vibe of his previous CD Spin -- likeable but a lot less engaging despite a singalong hook. Most artists in smooth jazz achieve success with a certain style and formula and stick with it, lest they alienate radio programmers and fans. Cole has scored many hits while on the road to finding his true voice, and with any luck, he'll stay right there as the perfect antidote to his less imaginative contemporaries. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released May 17, 2009 | Atlantic Records

Fast becoming one of smooth jazz's hookiest songwriters, Steve Cole scored two number one radio hits off his 1998 debut, Stay Awhile. No doubt that program directors will continue to favor those tunes, but hopefully it won't be at the expense of the takes-one-listen-only-to-hum craftsmanship of many of the tracks on the follow-up, Between Us (Atlantic). He has the notion of "quick verse, get to the brassy hook" down to such a science that it may take a few listens to realize that the opening two tracks, "Got It Goin' On" and "From the Start" are two different songs. On both, producer Brian Culbertson provides the simmering retro-keyboard atmospheres beneath a silky, laid-back tenor lines but only for brief respites between the perfect choruses, on which Cole textures tenor with multiple alto-backing tracks. Cole sticks with this approach while varying rhythms throughout the disc, as if holding back on us throughout the verse sections and then making sure his hooks are brass-amplified so that we keep wanting him to return to them. He and Culbertson take this technique to new and exciting levels on a slow-simmering cover of TLC's "Waterfalls," texturing a horn section lead melody with another multiple horn harmony section; every few beats, Cole jumps out of the pattern to blow a cool tenor improvisation. Cole is a muscular tenor player by trade but will no doubt attract the mush lovers with his very tender soprano beauty on "For Your Love." ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released February 1, 2011 | Artistry Music

"[A] rich collection of old and new American standards backed by the lush sounds of the Millennium Chamber Players of Chicago."

House - Released December 29, 2014 | Rüttelplatten

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Narada Productions, Inc.

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