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A gem of a singer

By Freddy Cole

Fantasy: 1995

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This review first appeared in the June 9, 1995 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

It's gotta be tough being Nat "King" Cole's kid brother. It's probably even tougher when you're a singer, and your voice has that same intoxicating combo of smokiness and silkiness, and when your chosen style is the same after-hours jazz and blues vein your more famous sibling mined so successfully.

But even given the obvious similarities to his brother, Freddy Cole is a singular voice in jazz. His phrasing his far closer to that of Frank Sinatra or Billie holiday; his timing swings a little more.

And even more than his brother, Freddy gets inside a song, turns it inside out, brings out flavors and colors unheard in previous renditions. Like Sinatra, Freddy Cole can take any song and make it is his own, make you forget that anyone else ever sang it, ever made it a hit. His reading of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" is a case in point: The arrangement is slowed down by half and given a jazz inflection, Cole's hesitations and pauses emphasizing hidden nuances Wonder himself may not have heard in the song.

Cole shows a bit of bravery in his choice of songs, seeking out songs that others own – the above-mentioned "Isn't She Lovely" and "I'm a Fool to Want You," forever associated with Holiday – as well as songs one normally wouldn't consider "serious" enough for a jazz singer, songs like pop band Bread's "If" or "The Rose," popularized by Bette Midler. Each is remolded in Cole's remarkable hands; each becomes a part of his world – each, in fact, becomes as much of a gem as Cole himself.