STEVE COLE: Moonlight (Mack Avenue/Artistry)

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For his first release in his new deal with Mack Avenue/Artistry Records, sax man Steve Cole goes back to the music of his childhood – the music of his mother and father and the standards that were always being played around his Chicago home. More, when he began studying the saxophone at high school it was in the classical context and he often played with symphony orchestras. Here he’s partnered throughout by the Millennium Chamber Players of Chicago and together they create a very gentle, soporific, smooth sound that veers towards “elevator music” but which is ultimately saved by some exquisite soloing – not just from Cole himself but from the side players, most notably from pianist Mike Logan.

Logan’s delicate playing is a delight on the album’s title cut – The John Williams-penned theme to the movie ‘Sabrina.’ It’s guitarist Dale Prasco, though, who takes honours on James Taylor’s ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ which is given an Earl Klugh makeover. Other featured tunes include ‘(I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over’, ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘Cry Me A River’ and ‘The Long And Winding Road’. Best of the bunch, though, is (yet another) version of Burt Bacharach’s ‘The Look Of Love’. The tune is ready made for an album of this nature and on this take Cole’s sax and Logan’s piano combine beautifully against a lush string backdrop. It’s nowhere near as adventurous as McCoy Tyner’s wonderful ’97 version but Cole’s album was never about “adventure”. Cole, is seems, has wanted to play it safe and smooth and he’s succeeded.

(BB) 3/5