Yesterday evening at 5 p.m., I had the pleasure of seeing The Freddy Cole Quartet. At age 84, singer and pianist Freddy Cole has still got it. If you’re not already familiar with Cole, he is the youngest of his parents’ five children; his three elder brothers, Eddie, Ike, and the famous Nat King Cole, were all musicians. Though the singer sounds and looks a lot like Nat (sometimes disarmingly so), he has a charm and style all his own.
Cole plays with three other gifted musicians: Randy Napoleon (guitar), Elias Bailey (bass), and Quentin Baxter (drums /percussion). All four were absolutely in their element, and seemed to have a lot of fun. Each player complements, but never drowns out, Freddy. At times, Napoleon’s guitar seemed like a duet singing back to him. It was great to see Freddy play with these much-younger guys — almost like a grandfather with grandsons-in-jazz.
Freddy began the show with a love song, “Wonder Why.” Towards the beginning of the set, he told us he was extending to us an “invitation to relaxation” and followed with the song “This is a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening.”
Throughout the performance, he sang with soul, looking slyly out into the audience from time to time. Singing and playing seem as natural as breathing to Freddy and his easy-going style made for a relaxed yet powerful performance. His rich deep voice is full of emotion and his fingers are quick and deft. Most of the time he sang while playing piano, but for a couple of songs he stood to sing. While at the piano, for emphasis he would point or gesture, all while not missing a beat.
Freddy’s song selection varied from fast-paced and joyful such as in “I Just Found out about Love and I Like It” to slow and mournful in “Cottage for Sale,” and “It’s Easy to Remember” (one of his favorites, he said).
Many of the songs were familiar ones his brother Nat also sang: “Where Can I Go Without You?,” “Maybe It’s Because I Love You Too Much,” “Pretend,” “Route 66,” and “L-O-V-E,” as well as other jazz standards like “How Little We Know.” For those of us who grew up listening to these songs, it was a powerful and emotional experience.
As we were leaving, I heard audience members say things like “I am so happy I got to see him” and “This was so worth it.”
Truly, It was a great pleasure and honor to be in the presence of this jazz great. His music will never go out of style.