Richie Cole is a natural clown. He milks every situation for its ridiculous possibilities, yet at the Bull’s Head in Barnes he gave a stunning display of alto playing that, for all its overstatement and comic undertones, was truly impressive. He has been identified as from the Phil Wood’s stylistic camp, but there is a little ragtime in his soul, and he really does think on his feet.
With him was a highly talented 24-year-old San Francisco guitarist called Bruce Foreman, a straight bop player, who showed no rock influence despite his age. Together they were a complement to each other, both extroverts, but with the younger man more circumspect in his solo construction.
For most of the evening they were well supported by the Tony Lee Trio, with bassist Spike Heatley and drummer Chris Karan providing a tasteful and unobtrusive backing. The musical temperature was raised, however, by the appearance of pianist Dave MacRae, whose rhythmically more assertive piano gave the lift that Cole needed. Brian Smith added his tenor to the solo roster with customary skill and the Bull’s Head audience gave them a rapturous reception.