Steve Cole – Gratitude

Gratitude, due out July 26 via Mack Avenue Music Group’s Artistry Music, arrives on the heels of a health scare in Steve Cole’s family. The successful battle left the saxophonist feeling rejuvenated, with a renewed sense of hope and faith in his fellow humans. That depth of feeling shines through on the album’s ten tracks, which joyously spotlight Cole’s gift for infectious grooves, soulful melodies, and vibrant pop hooks. “Going through something like this,” Cole says of the recent health scare, “and seeing all these marvelous people who care so much about others has really imbued my music with optimism and gratitude.”

Co-produced with longtime collaborator and fellow saxophonist David Mann, Gratitude in no way reinvents the trademark sound that has seen Cole consistently top the contemporary jazz charts, both solo and with the much-loved sax trio The Sax Pack, over the last two decades. But it does find an artist with a love of life and an overflowing passion for self-expression, the formula for an invigorating and moving set of music. “Joy is baked into this record, and hopefully it means as much to the listeners as it does to me.”

The ensemble on Gratitude includes his regular rhythm section, bassist Lamar Jones and drummer Khari Parker, along with guitarist Bernd Schoenhart, organist Ricky Peterson and horn players Trevor Neumann and Dan Levine. As he has been since Cole’s second album, David Mann was a crucial partner: producing, playing multiple instruments, and even providing the album’s heartfelt title track.

“It’s a beautiful song, and perfect for me as an artist,” Cole says. “I feel like Dave knew the record needed that — and that I needed it.”

Another reason for appreciation came via one of Cole’s Sax Pack partners when Marcus Anderson delivered the funky “Can’t Get Enough.” As Cole marvels, “He just laid it at my feet, completely finished. Marcus said, ‘I was thinking of you,’ and he gave me this awesome song. It was an incredible gift from one of my saxophone brothers.”

Having created one of his strongest albums to date, Cole hopes that the music of Gratitude returns some of the healing energy and positive emotion that he received from so many people back into the wider world. He’s seen it happen firsthand: “Writing music is a dream, and it always blows me away when someone tells me a story about how my music has affected them in a profound way,” he says. “Joy is baked into this record, and hopefully it means as much to the listeners as it does to me.”

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