an image to return to the tributes main page.
here to see Freddy Cole @ the PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 2009
15 October 1931 – 27 June 2020
Freddy Cole died 27 June 2020. He was 88 years of age. The
cause of his death has been confirmed by his manager Suzi Reynold
as ‘complications from a cardiovascular ailment.’
Lionel Frederick Cole was born on October 15, 1931, the youngest
of Edward and Paulina Nancy Cole’s five children. His three
elder brothers, Eddie, Ike and Nat (twelve years Freddy’s
senior) were all musicians.
“I started playing piano at five or six,” Cole 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,” Cole recalls. “I learned
so much from just watching and being around him.” After a
possible career with 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 the Roosevelt Institute in Chicago.
Cole moved to New York in 1951, where he studied at the Juilliard
School of Music and found himself profoundly influenced by John
Lewis, 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 Cole 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 his accomplished
bandmade up of himself, guitarist Randy napoleon, drummer Curtis
Boyd and bassist Zachery Pride that regularly tours the US, Europe,
the Far East and South America. Cole has been a recording artist
since 1952, when his first single, “The Joke’s on Me”,
was released on an obscure Chicago-based label.
Cole recorded several albums for European and English companies
during the 1970’s that helped him develop a loyal overseas
following. Cole believes that becoming an international favourite
made him “widen my scope a little bit.” He developed
a stand-up act, a better rapport with audiences, and learned to
sing in other languages. “It made me much more of a performer.”
Cole doesn’t apologise for sounding like his brother, Nat
“King” Cole. There are certain unmistakable similarities.
He plays piano and sings and performs live with guitar and upright
bass, just like Nat. Yet his voice is raspier, smokier, jazzier
even. But 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. His vocals - suave, elegant, formidable, and articulate
- are among the most respected in jazz. Cole’s career continues
to ascend as he has moved into the front ranks of America’s
home-grown art form with a style and musical sophistication all