Cool Mr. Cole Wows Them at L.A.'s
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Thursday, August 28, 2008
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California Jazz Foundation was honored to partner with In-House
Music in presenting Mr. Freddy Cole to the Los Angeles area. It was
a rare opportunity because Mr. Cole rarely performs in California.
The net proceeds of the event benefited both of our organizations,
and Mr. Cole said he would like to do it again in 2009. Stay tuned!
The slated August 28 performance of master song
stylist Freddy Cole took about two years in the making. In fact, it
was his first southland appearance in all that time. Hence, the crowd
for the first set nearly overflowed for this special one-nighter. In a
span of 2Â½ hours, Cole and his company of firstâ€“rate rhythmists
(Elias Baileyâ€“bass, Curtis Boydâ€“drums, Andy Napoleonâ€“guitar)
covered an amazing 30 tunes in two sets. From brilliant balladry to
upâ€“tempo swingers, Cole wowed the crowd into polite amazement.
Like his audience, the Cole quartet, ageâ€“wise, is
half and half: two elder grayhairs and two youthful cubs. The leader
is an energetic 77, while his guitarist shows the appearance of a
college freshman. Besides keeping in the tradition of period songs
that best represent his era, Cole delved into later numbers from the
pop arena like Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are. An unexpected
twist was ever present in Cole Porter's vintage '34 classic The
Continental. This arrangement ended a la Basie's April in Paris
with not two but four codas!
Cole can "talk" a lyric besides sing it, which adds
nuances to convey a deeper meaning in a songâ€“-something from which
any young performer can learn. He does both distinctively and with
convincing ease, as if he's lived the experience in every tune. His
rapid segues remind one of a Vegas lounge act that is perfectly timedâ€“-only
in this case you're surrounded by a group of sensitive, legitimate
fans and not a crowd of curiously uninformed spectators.
Being the showman he is, Cole at times will depart
from the piano to stand up for songs which require a more personal
touch, such as If You Went Away, played with a bossa beat. In
mixing up the set, he included movie themes like Morning of the
Carnival and the Broadway favorite If I Love Again. The
bluesy Watching You Watching Me was a particular high spot (and
a tune unfamiliar to most of the crowd). Another highlight was the
Legrandâ€“Bergman collaboration How Do You Keep the Music
Playing? which ended in a pleasant Poinciana groove.
As expected, there was no material relating to big
brother Natâ€¦and although Freddy is inclined to remind folks that
"I'm not my brother," still one can't escape feeling that he is
channeling his "unforgettable" long late sibling. For instance,
Freddyâ€“-as Nat often didâ€“-will glance at the audience instead of
the keyboard when playing or vocalizing. The familiar hoarse and hazy
vocal timbre and laid back demeanor are there, too.
A bonus was in store by late evening when Cole
invited his son Lionel (also a capable pianist) to sit in at the
ivories. The generational talent was apparent when the 30â€“something
lad headed straight for the blues with Home Fried Potatoes. Not
a soul wished the music to end, but when it did, Senior Cole obliged
his fans with not one but two closers: How Do You Say Auf
Wiedersehen and I'll Be Seeing You. The emotional intensity
was felt throughout the room. After the show, Cole commented to this
writer that he'd hope it wouldn't be another two years before his next
L.A. appearance. We second that motion and then some.