Monday, March 18, 2013

Freddy Cole Quartet Carries On A Jazz Family Legacy

With three older brothers making names for themselves, how could Eddie, Ike, and Nat's youngest brother possibly avoid the jazz bug? 

This weekend, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center is pleased to welcome jazz great Freddy Cole as he performs two cabaret style performances Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23.

Inspired At An Early Age
Lionel Frederick Cole was born on October 15, 1931, the youngest of Edward and Pualina Nancy Cole’s five children. “I started playing piano at five or six,” Freddy remembers. “Music was all around me.” 

In the Chicago home of his youth, visitors included Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. He also credits Billy Eckstine as a major influence. “He was a fantastic entertainer,” Freddy recalls. “I learned so much from just watching and being around him.”

After a possible career in the NFL was shelved due to a hand injury, he began playing and
singing in Chicago clubs as a teenager. Although he was ready to hit the road at 18, his mother intervened, and he continued his musical education at Roosevelt Institute in Chicago. 

Freddy moved to New York in 1951 where he studied at the Julliard School of Music and found himself profoundly influenced by John Leis, Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson. He got a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music and then spent several months on the road as a member of an Earl Bostic band that also included Johnny Coles and Benny Golson.

It was back in New York that Freddy successfully laid the groundwork for a career that continues to flourish to this day. He developed a vast repertoire of songs in Manhattan bistros and concurrently began to supplement his live performances with television and radio commercial “jingle work.”

A resident of Atlanta since 1972, he currently leads a quartet made up o f himself, guitarist
Gerry Byrd, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Curtis Boyd that regularly tours the U.S., Europe, the Far East and South America.

Freddy has been a recording artist since 1952, when his first single, “The Joke’s on Me,” was released on the obscure Chicago-based Topper label. The following year, he produced a moderate hit, “Whispering Grass,” for Columbia’s Okeh subsidiary. After making singles and albums for Dot De-Lite, and other domestic labels in the ’50s and ’60s, Freddy recorded several albums for European and English companies during the ’70s that helped him to develop a loyal overseas following, especially in Brazil.

Unmistakable Similarities

Freddy Cole doesn’t apologize for sounding so much like his brother, Nat “King” Cole. There are certain unmistakable similarities. He plays piano, sings and performs live with guitar and upright bass, just like Nat. Yet his voice is raspier, smokier and jazzier even. He has emerged from the awesome shadow cast by his elder brother. In truth, his phrasing is far closer to that of Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday than that of his brother, and his timing swings a little more.

With his sixth Fantasy release, Cole’s career continues to ascend. His vocals – suave, elegant, formidable, articulate and polished – are among the most respected in jazz, and he occupies a place in the front ranks of America’s homegrown art form with a style and a musical sophistication that are uniquely his own.

Don't miss your chance to see the Freddy Cole Quartet!
Tickets start at $30. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Celebrate Abilities with Justin Hines March 12

On Tuesday, March 12 the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and Celebrating Abilities are proud to welcome Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Hines to the Fox Cities stage.

Hines’ latest album, “Days to Recall,” marks his American debut. His music is uplifting and heartfelt, overflowing with natural optimism, although he is no stranger to challenges. 

Hines has Larsen Syndrome, a joint dislocation condition that requires him to permanently use a wheelchair. He jokes, “I’ll never be a guy who relies on choreography,” but his live performances are delivered with honest emotion and a passion for music that shines through every song.

Hines Embodies Celebrating Abilities
Celebrating Abilities is a local Fox Cities nonprofit that raises awareness about the incredible abilities of individuals in the community, regardless of any apparent disability. 

Since 2003, the organization has raised awareness of the contributions people with disabilities make in our community and the people who help make those contributions possible. 

Each year, Celebrating Abilities presents "A-bilities Awards" which recognize the individuals, organizations and businesses who make a positive difference in the way people with disabilities can develop and celebrate their abilities.

This week, watch our Facebook Page
and join us in celebrating abilities! 

Tickets for Justin Hines are $20!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ROAR: The Wildest Fundraising Event of the Season

  MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2013

Join us for the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center's premier fundraising event of the season! 

Journey inside the theatrical wonder of Disney's THE LION KING. Discover how Pride Rock and the Tony® Award-winning puppets come to life and more amazing stagecraft secrets!


6:00 P.M. — Passport to the Pride Lands
Enjoy a preadventure cocktail hour in the Main Lobby

7:00 P.M. — The Journey Begins
Step inside Thrivent Financial Hall and into the Pride Lands

8:15 P.M. — Survival of the Fittest Live Auction
Bid to win even more exciting Fox Cities P.A.C. adventures

8:30 P.M. — Disney Departure
Enjoy a dessert reception fit for a king (or queen)

Click below for a sneak peek of some of the details you can look for at ROAR!

Tickets for ROAR: A 10th Anniversary Safari Event are $100 and are on sale now at All proceeds benefit the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and its mission-based programs. 

Space is limited!

Friday, March 1, 2013

On the Road with The Addams Family

When most people are headed home from work, theater professionals are just getting started. What is that like? Musician Jim Geddes from The Addams Family gives us an inside look at life on the road.

On The Road
I love being on the road because every day can bring something different. Different cities, different venues, different cafes and different hotel rooms. So to write about the average day is quite difficult, but I will do my best!

This is my fourth national/international Broadway musical tour. Most cities I've been to before, so I pretty much know what to expect when I arrive at my destination. I know my favorite cafes and diners in almost any given city. I'm starting to get used to people following me or asking for my advice on places to go. I've always thought about writing a book on these places, but alas I don't know if I could sit down long enough to write something that long.

A “Typical” Show Day
Every day we get to wake up in a hotel with an unfamiliar scene outside the window. If we are lucky to be sitting down in city for a week or two, we won't have to board a bus to our next venue. If we are in a one nighter situation (in a city for only one night), we will have to board the coach bus early to make it to the next city in time to check into the next hotel and relax before heading to the venue.

Jim (far right) in the pit for The Addams Family

Sound Check
Sometimes the venue is a quaint 600-750 person theater and sometimes they can be as large as a 4,000-5,000 person arena. We have to play to every size theater, so sound checks are extremely important at new venues. Usually when I get to a new venue, I rush to the music pit to start setting up all my instruments. I usually average 3 to 5 woodwind instruments, but I've had up to eight instruments on shows before. Once I’m set up and everything is in place, we check every line and then run specific songs with the actors to make sure their mic packs are working and that they can be heard over the musicians.

Jim (front left) with fellow The Addams Family musicians

Getting Ready for Each Performance
After the sound check is when I usually have a minute to eat something light and prepare for the show. Eating healthy on the road is vital as musicians do not have understudies to go on if they aren’t feeling well. If we're sick, we still play. Being in good shape is a must. Light eating of veggies and fruit is usually the case. 

Right before the show, I will be back in the pit doing light warm-ups on each instrument and maybe playing through difficult passages. I'm mainly using this time to get all my ducks in a row, so that I can play through the entire show without interruption.

After The Show
Once the show has been played, if we are traveling to a new venue the next day, everything has to be packed up once again. Everything is cleaned and all the instruments are put back in their cases. 

We return to the hotel, either find a place to snack and have a few drinks, or we settle down in our rooms and snack from our reserves of food we travel with. A full night's sleep will help keep a musician in good health. Great hotels are always appreciated!

Then repeat!

With this current show, I am quite lucky that we have quite a few week long sit downs. Also we are traveling abroad to Asia this fall and the story of an average day changes quite a bit. But as far as the show goes, that will remain at the highest level we are capable of producing.