After a stint with Lionel Hampton
, Cole formed his own group, doing a great deal to popularize bebop in the 1970s. Some of his finest recordings were his early ones for Muse
, during a period when he often teamed up with singer Eddie Jefferson
. His humor sometimes left critics cold, but Cole was one of the top bop-oriented players of the 1980s, and his Heads Up
releases of the '90s (after a few years off the scene) are excellent. During that decade Cole founded the touring big band Alto Madness, which he led and arranged for. Among the most notable records he released during that period were Cool Bossa (with Hank Crawford
, 1990) Battle of the Saxes (with Sonny Stitt
, 1993), and his charting, award-winning tribute to Leonard Bernstein
, West Side Story (1996). Cole spent the rest of the decade working as an educator, playing weekly club gigs and touring occasionally.