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.
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.