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(Published: July 19, 2010)

Five By Design networks for the alto sax jazz legend

The spirit of Coleman Hawkins will be overseeing Richie Cole's debut with the Topeka Symphony on March 12, 2011. Hawkins, who grew up in Topeka attended Washburn University, is the site of Cole's forthcoming orchestra engagement.

"Don't you know he was the king of saxophones? Yes indeed he was, talkin' bout the guy that made it sound so good...Some people knew him by the Bean, but Hawkins was his name." The lyrics from Hawkins' improvised solo of "Body & Soul" were originally penned by Eddie Jefferson, the father of vocalese. Cole toured with vocal jazz stylist until Jefferson's untimely and tragic death outside a Detroit nightclub in 1979.

But it was Jon Hendricks who would later immortalize Cole in song. It was Hendricks' verse ("sang with Moody and Richie Cole, he could sing it just like Bird, but his forte were the words") to the Manhattan Transfer's arrangement of "Body & Soul" which served as a tribute to Jefferson.

The orchestra premiere with the Topeka Symphony is a rediscovery of Richie Cole and jazz as an American artform. Cole's foray into the world of symphony orchestra market was precipitated by a serendipitous meeting with the Minneapolis vocal quintet, Five By Design.

Cole was attending the reunion of vocal jazz educator and guru, Phil Mattson in Minnesota where he first heard Five By Design. Mattson, incidentally arranged the Hawkins' rendition of "Body & Soul" for the Manhattan Transfer along "Jeannine" and several other compositions. Cole complimented the group on its buttery harmonies and mentioned his interest in developing a project with one of Five By Design's members.

Little did Cole realize that Five By Design had big time connections in the symphony pops market. The vocal fivesome had developed programming for over 200 symphony orchestras and is considered one of the top pops attractions in North America. After a brief bit of schmoozing (Trenton style) with the vocal group's manager, Cole and Five By Design premiered the initial project at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis.

As the creative talent behind musical theatre productions of Radio Days, Club Swing, Stay Tuned, and George & Ira, Five By Design's approach to the Cole tribute was a bit of an anomaly. While a few orchestras include jazz programming as a part of their offerings, the trick was in selling it to the general symphony patron.

The result, "Cool & Swingin," is a celebration of Cole's 40-year career with Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Eddie Jefferson, Anita O'Day, Art Pepper, Sonny Stitt, Boots Randolph, Doc Severinsen, Freddie Hubbard, Nancy Wilson, Ben Sidran, Boots Randolph, Manhattan Transfer, and his Alto Madness Orchestra.

Five By Design focused upon charts that were in the mainstream including Rich's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and Lionel Hampton's "Flyin Home." The Cool & Swingin project also includes Five By Design's arrangements of Cole originals ("Harold's House of Jazz" and "Bossa Nova Eyes") that were penned at the Rogue and Jar, a Washington D.C. establishment where he spent some of his early years. Five By Design building younger audiences through publishing seven arrangements of his compositions for high school and collegiate vocal jazz ensembles.

"We're planning on booking Richie in about ten orchestra engagements for the 2011-2012 season. It's an opportunity for orchestra audiences to discover his contributions to music," according to Alton Accola, artist representative for Five By Design and Cole. Five By Design is introducing Richie Cole to younger audiences and a new demographic of symphony patrons. Meetings and relationships are sometimes fortuitous, but most often the result of a lifetime of dedication to excellence and persistence.


More Information: http://www.richiecole.com

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