Home | In The Spotlight | Steve Cole
A native of Chicago, Illinois, saxophonist Steve Cole studied music at Northwestern University. Steve began gigging frequently on the local Chicago music scene as a session player, contributing to a number of soundtracks on the A&E network, as well as composing and performing music with keyboardists Bob Mamet and Brian Culbertson.

Cole’s first solo album, Stay Awhile, turned out to be very successful and led to Steve receiving the Prism Award for Best New Artist at the 2000 Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards. The release of Cole’s second album, Between Us, quickly posted a #1 Hit with “Got It Goin’ On." Steve continues to tread fresh musical terrain just as he demonstrates his mastery of the art of contemporary instrumental music.

On his latest CD, NY LA, one of today’s most accomplished and uncompromising artists has taken the always-risky route of reinventing himself and his music. The rewards are nothing short of spectacular.

Listen to clips of Steve Cole's CD NYLA

The Jazz Nation (TJN): We’re talking today with a great saxophonist, a great composer, he’s got a great new record out, NY LA, Warner Brothers recording artist, Steve Cole! How’re you doing Steve?
Steve Cole (SC): That’s good man, you need some canned applause when you say my name!

TJN: (Laughing) Hey I’m working on those special effects! Believe me, the applause is out there and you hear it at every show!
(Laughing) So what’s happening man? It’s good to talk to you!

TJN: Yeah, same here. So you’re on the road, I know you’re on tour, you’re getting ready for a new record. How’s the road treating you?
(SC): It’s great; I’m having a blast. We’re kind of coming close to the end of the Guitars & Saxes tour that I’m doing with Peter White, Richard Elliott and Jeff Golub. I’ve got to say it’s one of the best summers I’ve had traveling in a long time.

TJN: So what’s been like working with those cats on the road?
(SC): Oh it’s great! You know I’ve been listening to a lot of their music for a long time, and before I was their “colleague” so to speak, I was their fan. It was really kind of cool. I’ve known Jeff and Peter for a long time and have just gotten to know Richard on this tour, and they’re a great bunch of guys, superb musicians. It’s been a blast.

TJN: Absolutely. So you were classically trained, you’re out of Chicago, which is just a Mecca for music. Talk about those early days…
The early days…wow. Well there were dues to be paid here in Chicago! I started out playing classical music and it started back in college. All the very well known Russian and French Literature for Saxophone and Strings, I’m sure you’ve heard all of it, right?

TJN: (Both laughing) Oh yeah!
(SC): Then I started playing pop music, R&B, be-bop, all that stuff, playing clubs in Chicago until 4 o’clock in the morning for many years. You know, just doing that kind of thing, then started doing some commercial music, radio and TV stuff. Then I started thinking about getting in to some other types of music. I met some great people here in Chicago, Brian Culbertson, a guy named Bob Mamet, who is a Latin recording artist, a while ago, and started getting on the road and playing as a side man for those guys and eventually was able to do it on my own.

TJN: So what made you make a decision? How did that all evolve to the point where you said, “Hey, I’m ready to do this. I think I can do this on my own”?
Actually, I guess early on I knew I what I wanted to do. I had a fairly good idea. Even as a classical player, I was concentrating on being a soloist as opposed to playing in an ensemble, so to speak. So I think that was my focus very early, and I think it just took the experience of being on the road and playing this music and kind of finding my voice as a player and individual artist…I think it was a pretty natural evolution.

TJN: Yeah. Well you’ve really come up through the ranks and paid those dues, as you said. We’ve watched you over the past few years evolve into a great a sax player with a lot of great ability and a lot of charisma on stage and just doing your thing. You know, Between Us was a great album. I still love that album. Just some great tunes on there. So how did you get from Between Us to NY LA?
(SC): Well it took about three years. (Both laughing) How did I get to NY LA? Well I think NY LA was a progression from all the way back to the first record Stay Awhile. I think we kind of planted the seeds with regards to the type of music that I was really into. And Between Us was another step in the progression, taking that to the next level. Taking all these periods that happened between your first and second record and trying to put those in to the composition and production, etc. I continued working with Brian Culbertson, he produced Between Us, and then I think NY LA was kind of pushing the envelope a little. On the smooth jazz stuff, I think we took it to the next level in terms of production and composition. I think we did a great job in writing and putting it all together. Also I kind of ventured in to more pop music with the vocal tracks on the record, which I really enjoyed doing. And then kind of towards the end of the record, started taking it to another area, mixing a lot of different styles together, R&B, gospel, jazz, hop-hop and RAP music together, and kind of transitioning at the end of the record into kind of an acid jazz hop-hop thing, which I really, really like. Kind of where I wanted to end off this record because I’m thinking about maybe pursuing that a little more heavily on the next one.

TJN: The sequel, huh?
(SC): The sequel, right. NY LA2. No, I’ll call it LA NY just to be entertaining about it.


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