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There's no business like Cole business

Rio de Janeiro Blue
Rio de Janeiro Blue
By Freddy Cole

Telarc Records: 2001

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This review first appeared in the November 25, 2001 edition of the American Reporter.

Watching those "oldies" networks on cable television featuring re-runs of some of the talk shows of the '60s reminds one of the slow death of what used to be called Show Business. Not that there aren't still talented performers on the scene, but they're all so specialized these days that the idea of a variety show in 2001 is laughable.

Which brings up thoughts of Freddy Cole, a throwback in the very best sense. For as Cole shows on his newest release, he remains a showman – he's not purely a jazz singer, nor a blues singer, but someone like Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan or Sammy Davis Jr. who can tackle just about any style of music.

Or, okay, like his older, late brother Nat "King" Cole.

But it's time to give Freddy his due – Nat died too young, left us while style perfecting his approach. Freddy's had thirty more years than Nat did to get his craft to where he wants it, and that experience shows.

Possessed of that same warm, gravely baritone that apparently graces all the Colemen, Freddy's delivery is even more relaxed than his brother's – heck, he's more relaxed than Dean Martin. He uses space and pauses in his singing like Count Basie did at the piano – although Cole's own stellar piano is closer to Jay McShann's.

On his latest release, Cole shows his stylistic breadth – touching on the Brazilian sounds he's clearly enamored of, along with standards (Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You") and previously unknown little gems ranging from R&B to pop to straight-ahead jazz. Each becomes an instant classic in his hands, as he mines each vein of emotion, brings out every shade and nuance – even some the songs' composers probably never knew existed.

Freddy Cole is a national treasure, an artist whose command of the American popular canon is unrivaled, whose passion for, well, Show Business remains undimmed.