Mar 5, 2011
I wanted to like Steve Cole’s Moonlight CD a lot more than I do. Really I did.
Cole is a strong player, who in the past has shown on his R&B tinged Smooth Jazz releases that he canbe an exciting horn player. Here, he comes up with a good idea – to play a set of standards and pop covers on his sax, while backed by a symphony orchestra. However, the execution just doesn’t work the way it should.
His tune selection is quite good, and his choices of James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes” and the Guess Who’s “Undun” for “modern standards” are admirable. And the arrangements by Michael Cunningham are strong, and at times (as when he supplies tension to “The Look of Love”), quite compelling. But Cole seems content more often than not to grab the melody and wring emotion from it without any really interesting flourishes, improvisations or – dare I say it - soul.
There are exceptions – “The Look of Love” is far from the cliché it’s fast becoming in Cole’s hands and the title track benefits from Russell Ferrante (Yellowjackets) on piano. It’s just that for a player who hasn’t been constrained by the Smooth Jazz category before, Cole is playing it way too safe when he could have really stretched out.