Smooth-jazz tenor saxophonist Steve Cole didn’t let a worldwide pandemic stop him from writing and recording his 10th studio album, Smoke and Mirrors, even though all the tracking was done via long-distance file-sharing.
In fact, with so many musicians off the road and with time on their hands, Cole and his long-time producer, co-writer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Mann were able to garner contributions from a wide array of top-shelf players, including trumpeter Trevor Neumann (The Eagles, Jeff Lorber), guitarist Bernd Schoenhart (Cher), bassist Mark Egan (Pat Metheny), drummer Brian Dunne (Hall & Oates) and several others.
The result is a spirited and surprisingly organic 10-song effort that’s rife with grabby melodies and funky grooves in a range of tempos. The feels range from the effervescent “It’s a House Party” to the melancholy “Trust.” Cole’s solos are intrinsically romantic, with a full-bodied tone and fluid phrasing. And he has a knack for tossing in just the right amount of bite at well-timed moments.
Mann — who plays tenor and baritone sax and flute (along with keyboards, synth bass and drum programming) — crafted horn arrangements for each tune, which bolsters the R&B flavor and adds a fullness to the overall sound.
View Steve Cole’s artist profile on the Mack Avenue Records website here.