Musical Mentor 

A former child prodigy, saxophonist Richie Cole nurtures the next generation.


Cole's skills and reputation take him all over the world — at this writing he is playing at a jazz festival somewhere in Siberia. What brings him to Ashland is his friendship with pianist Dave Adams, and his support for Adams' Young Razzcals Jazz Project.

To speak to Style by phone from his home in Virginia Beach, Adams took time from rehearsing with one of the musicians in his band, a trumpeter named Tyler Lindsay. Lindsay, who recently won the best trumpet award at the TriState Jazz Festival, a competition for the cream of the area's middle- and high-school students, is in fourth grade.

"He's amazing," Adams says. "At the festival he asked to sit in with the teachers, and then played 'Donna Lee,' which is a tough tune in a hard key, and brought the house down."

Lindsay is only one of the talented children that Adams has worked with since starting the project in the early '90s. Several have gone on to scholarships and musical careers. Current students include Veronica Swift, a 10-year-old vocalist with a surprisingly sophisticated sound (that she is the daughter of area jazz masters Hod O'Brien and Stephanie Nakasian can't have hurt), and Corey Fonville, a 14-year-old who recently played on David Letterman's show.

"Music is a language, just like French or Spanish; it's easier to learn when you are young," Adams says. It's a theory borne to an extreme degree by young trumpeter Lindsay, who can speak 10 foreign languages.

Former child prodigy Cole first encountered Adams' young charges at the Telluride Jazz Festival, was immediately impressed by their abilities and wrote a piece to include them in his performance on the main stage. (A prolific composer/arranger, Cole has the ability to sit down and write multipart scores, according to Adams.)

The Razzcals will open up the Randolph-Macon program, which will be followed by Cole's quintet (with Adams on bass, pianist Hod O'Brien, trumpeter Steve Nygaard and young drummer Corey Fonville). "We'll play 'Joy Spring,' 'Well You Needn't,' 'Hi Fly,' do some Latin stuff, some ballads — and knowing Richie, something extremely fast," Adams says. Individual young players will share the spotlight, including Swift and Lindsay. Potentially, some new talent from the music clinic earlier in the day will be invited to the stage.

"Playing onstage with real jazz musicians is a big deal for these kids, something they will remember all their lives," Adams says. "So I don't want to be the one doing the picking." S

Richie Cole performs at Randolph-Macon College's Blackwell Auditorium, 205 Henry St., April 16 at 7:30 p.m. Cole also will also conduct a free music clinic that afternoon from 1 to 3.

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