It looked as though this was going to be the year for Eddie Jefferson and Richie Cole. Working together, both musicians were gathering momentum for their distinctive brands of bop: Jefferson for his unique vocalese and Cole for his sympathetic accompaniment on alto sax. But the promising partnership ended abruptly a few months ago when Jefferson was shot to death outside a Detroit club.

Last night, Richie Cole returned to D.C. for a two-night stand at the Cellar Door where it was apparent that he remains an accompanist - by choice. Considering his current back-up, that's quite understandable.

Appearing with the Ruben Brown Trio, Cole was generous with the time he allowed his sidemen - Brown on piano, Marshall Hawkins on bass and Bernard Sweetney on drums. Although there were few surprises in the material they covered, Cole and Trio succeded in playing even "I'm In The Mood For Love" with their improvisational flights. Hawkins, who had just flown in from the coast with Cole, was particularly inventive. As vocal on arco bass as Erroll Garner was on piano, Hawkins never failed to influence Cole's tone, alternating rapidly between soft and angular.

Meanwhile, Brown's unpredictable right hand and Sweetney's impeccable brush work filled in the spaces with their usual eloquence.