Freddy Cole Quintet

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Freddy Cole Quintet

Birdland, NYC, June 19, 2018

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Freddy Cole

The nearly 87-year-old pianist-singer Freddy Cole looked fragile walking to the piano, but once he sat down to play “Taking a Chance on Love,” his feel for the music flowed. It was the only instrumental in the set mostly devoted to his elder brother, Nat King Cole, who died in 1965.

Cole had released a CD in 2016 entitled, He Was the King. It was a turn-around from his 1990 release, I’m Not My Brother I’m Me, from which he sang his own composition, a sprightly “Home Fried Potatoes.” The octogenarian also performed another of his works as an encore, “Lovely Day.

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” As to brother Nat, he was well represented in hits such as “A Blossom Fell” and “I Remember You.”

Cole’s vocals are still honey sweet and warm. Diminished vocal strength is greatly offset with the master’s ability to tell a story as powerfully as ever, underpinned by a blues sensibility, proved in “It Could Happen to You” and “To Whom It May Concern.” Tempos were slow and easy, with some occasional spice, including two Latinized works, “Jet” and “Let There Be Love.” He was all business, playing the set straight through with nary a word spoken, barely looking up from the keys.

Ace musicians Kris Kaiser (guitar), Elias Bailey (bass), Jay Sawyer (drums), and special guest Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone) seemed a bit lost at sea, working to make the connection with Cole and each other.

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Yet, when he left, finally saying, “I hope you all had a good time,” the only possible answer was “Yes.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.