Smoke and Mirrors
With an unusual amount of time on his hands during a year of lockdown, saxophonist/composer Steve Cole found himself pondering the difference between our authentic selves and the illusions we project to others. On his new album, Smoke and Mirrors, Cole offers up an intimately personal reflection of his own true self, free of trickery or sleight of hand.
“A lot of people have trouble mustering the courage to present their authentic selves,” Cole says. “Maybe they don’t think that people will like who they really are – and that’s a tragedy. I’m very much a proponent of living your values. What you actually discover behind the smoke and mirrors can be way hipper than you ever thought it could be, so you should just be that person.”
While there were certainly challenges to corralling this stellar roster of musicians remotely from home recordings or socially distanced studio settings, quarantine did prove an equalizer in another sense. “Everybody’s stuck at home,” Cole points out with a laugh. “There are a lot of musicians that I would love to work with, but it’s impossible because they’re always on the road. So there was a little silver lining in the fact that I could call old friends like Todd Sucherman and Brian Dunne, or amazing artists like Mark Egan, and they’re actually available.”
Created entirely in pandemic-necessitated isolation, Smoke and Mirrors brings together an all-star band with Cole’s longtime producer, co-writer and multi-instrumentalist David Mann. The far-flung ensemble includes guitarist Bernd Schoenhart (Cher, Marc Anthony); trumpet and flugelhorn player Trevor Neumann (The Eagles, Jeff Lorber); organist Ricky Peterson (David Sanborn, Prince); bassists Mel Brown (Stevie Wonder, The Temptations) and Mark Egan (Pat Metheny Group, Sting); drummers Brian Dunne (Hall and Oates, Ariana Grande) and Todd Sucherman (Styx, Brian Wilson).