Freddy Cole - photo by Michael Sherer
It was a real treat to hear this living legend, especially in the spacious, classy and high rise venue Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, a part of Jazz at Lincoln Center. It’s located adjacent to Columbus Circle on Broadway at 60th Street, Manhattan. Mr. Cole, 84, still plays piano and sings at a high level and has a fine band. They are Harry Allen on tenor saxophone, Herman Burney on bass, Henry Conerway on drums and Chris Kaiser on guitar. Each instrument sounded clear and the blend of them all was very tasteful. The volume was just right.
The theme was love songs for Valentine’s Day, and there were many gems. My favorites were “Blame It On My Youth,” “Where Can I Go Without You,” “Since I Fell In Love With You,” “Never Trust A Woman’s Kiss,” “Say That You’ll Be Mine,” “It Was All My Fault” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
Mr. Cole began the set by singing while standing at the microphone for the first couple of songs, and then stayed behind the piano for the rest of the time. With that being a Steinway grand, it sounded great, as do the acoustics of the room. In addition to the sonic quality, it’s a welcomed change to have ample space to move in this 140 seat venue, unlike most jazz clubs that are too small and crowded. It’s housed high up in the Time Warner Center, which was built in 2004 and is both modern and sprawling. Many interesting photos of jazz musicians adorn the walls, and of course Dizzy Gillespie is the subject of several.
Mr. Cole is an old school jazz man with 60 years of gigging behind him. He wore a suit and tie, as is the tradition in jazz for many. Jazz at Lincoln Center’s artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, always wears one when “on the job.” Mr. Cole has a light and precise touch at the piano keys, and plays on the sparse side.
Randy Napoleon, a guitarist that Mr. Cole has played and recorded with since 2007, has a very thoughtful quote about his elder statesman. He said: “Freddy just glides through life. He’s got a lot of patience, warmth, a great sense of humor. The music is really inseparable from the person… One of the things that makes Freddy really great is his elegance and careful, judicious editing. He doesn’t play a lot of notes on piano, but the ones he plays really do make the band feel great. They’re melodic, it swings, and that’s it. He doesn’t feel you need a lot of extra, fancy stuff.”
Coincidentally, My. Cole studied at the highly esteemed Juilliard School Of Music upon moving to NYC from his native Chicago in 1951. Juilliard relocated from its original spot near Harlem to Lincoln Center when it was being constructed in the mid 1960’s.
Mr. Cole didn’t mention his recently departed niece, Natalie, who passed on the last day of 2015 at aged 65 from heart failure. Nor was there any reference to his older brother and the very famous Nat King Cole, who passed from lung cancer in 1965. Little was said in general. It was mostly about the romantic music, which was tender, heart felt and perfectly suited for lovers looking to be warmed up on this cold, New York City night.