While at Northwestern, Steve Cole had the opportunity to study classical saxophone with Fred Hemke. After his sophomore year and a heartfelt discussion with his father, Cole opted to enter the study of business and economics rather than music.

Several years later, Steve Cole has been brought to the forefront of contemporary jazz saxophone playing. His business career was short-lived. Music has taken the prominent position once again. It has been a long and winding road for Steve. He has worn several different hats from Classical saxophonist to business man and ultimately Contemporary Jazz artist. What is truly interesting is that he has traveled this extended path in a relatively short time.

Steve and I spoke one evening while he was at home in Chicago between tours. His candor and humor is infectious. His personality and outlook on life is as energetic and inspiring as his music.




I was very surprised to find out that you were playing on metal mouthpieces. I had figured you were playing on a big fat hard rubber mouthpiece based on what I heard. That’s just my take on it – nothing about it says “metal” to me. Please take that as a compliment.

Yeah. The last hard rubber mouthpiece I played on was when I was playing legit alto. Ever since then, I’ve used metal on all three axes. Actually, I just switched my tenor mouthpiece after all these years – from a Dukoff to a Guardala. I had been playing on the M7 for 10 or 15 years. It would just keep changing on me. I would adapt with reeds and different things to try to keep it together. After talking with Kirk Whalum and him telling me how he bit his Dukoff in half one day… (laughs)

He bit through it intentionally?

No, he was playing and it was just the end of it. I started looking for a new mouthpiece for tenor and I ended up with a Guardala Super King R&B. It feels very, very similar to my Dukoff. It’s not even one of the earlier ones. It’s one of those laser-trimmed one. I talked with Boney James who had switched to a King R&B. I saw that they had this Super King so I thought I’d check it out.

Hey, if Boney’s gonna be the King, you have to be the Super King! Right? (laughs)

That’s exactly right man. (laughs)

I find your sound very full and fat. “When I Think of You” was played on alto, but your tenor playing is featured more often on your recordings.

I don’t play alto much. Tenor’s my thing. It’s where I live. My goal with that has been to just have a rich, focused sound.


….YOU CAN READ THIS COMPLETE INTERVIEW IN MARCH/APRIL 2004 ISSUE OF SAXOPHONE JOURNAL. Contact dornpub.com for subscription information.


Used by permission.
© 2004 by Dorn Publications, Inc.
March/April 2004, Vol 28, No. 4