Thursday, December 6, 2007

Singing Straight, No Chaser

Along with his friend Tony Bennett, Freddy Cole is the one of the most romantic singers practicing today. No wonder, really—I mean, the man is Nat King Cole’s brother!

I recently heard Freddy for the second time, and I marvel at his musical chops. Even at 76, the man can infuse a lyric with verve, and his musical arrangements are classy and immediately pleasurable.

During the set I heard Freddy do this marvelous medley of songs about Paris, drawing the listener in with some familiar Porter (“I Love Paris”), but then shifting to an obscure, clever song (“Where You Are Is Paris”), following with Porter’s underappreciated “I Am in Love,” and ending with “How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehn?” The emotion he created was so tangible that—in the words of another song on his latest CD Music Maestro Please—“You Could Hear a Pin Drop.”

Writer Ted Panken skillfully attempts to summarize what makes Cole unique in the liner notes to Music Maestro Please:

"No conventional virtuoso, Cole with a minimum of affect conveys oceanic emotions on material . . . loosely organized around love and loss and the ambiguities and longueurs therein that would sound bathetic and sentimental in lesser hands. The crooner is a mid-register man, with a voice that neither soars to cathartic heights nor lows through dark subterranean depths. He doesn't scat, doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, never condescends to lyrics with archness or irony. He sings them straight, no chaser, with cool timing that hews to a personal inner clock . . ."

Freddy Cole favors a bossa nova beat in his playing. I never tire of it. I highly recommend Rio De Janeiro Blue for your listening pleasure. It showcases his talents both as a romantic balladeer (“Invitation” will immediately cast a languorous spell upon you) and as an upbeat celebrator of romance itself (“Something Happens to Me” and “Wild Is Love” always rekindle my inner passion!)

By the way, Freddy recently cut a tribute CD to Tony Bennett, and I also urge you to give it a try. At the show I attended he performed “What Are You Afraid Of?” from Bennett’s 1986 comeback album on Columbia. I’m so glad he’s keeping this song in circulation—it’s quite the crowd-pleaser. (Think of another turn on the sentiment expressed in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and you’ll get the song’s concept.)

Check out Freddy Cole’s discography on his website. He’s been one of the hardest working jazz singers of the last 20 years. Scan his touring schedule and mark your calendar. Treasures like Freddy are worth making an effort to see. Let's end with you enjoying Freddy asserting himself in "I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me."