Holly Cole: Holly

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Holly Cole


(Shanachie Ent. Corp.)

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

New to me, Holly Cole has a grounded sense of classic jazz. This cuts both ways. There’s nothing surprising on the CD, but also nothing fussy that loses the essence of a song.

Cole has a cozy alto and a way of breathing into her vocals.

To my mind, two tracks that stand out feature Wycliff Gordon on vocals (as well as on trombone) that blend well with Cole’s cottony delivery. The musician’s low, slightly gritty sound has palpable presence and a cool factor similar to, but less emphatic than, that of Louis Armstrong. “I Was Doing All Right” (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin), aided and abetted by Scott Robinson’s warm sax, and “I Could Write a Book” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart), bouncing with bonhomie (and sweet trombone), both shine. These two should do a show together.

“I’m Beginning to See the Light” (Don George/Johnny Hodges/Harry James/Duke Ellington) emerges flirty. Cole has an “ah” in her voice. Gordon’s horn sashays.  “It Could Happen to You” (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen) floats in on Larry Goldings’ pensive piano. The vocal is dreamy, lingering.

The Gershwins’ “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” has dancy sweep. “The way your smile just be-ums,” Cole sings as if moving with the music. I’ll bet her eyes close intermittently.

Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen’s brat-pack-familiar “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?” is bass centric (David Pilch) with nifty, unexpected flute  by John Johnson. The rhythmic vocal evokes a Greenwich Village basement boîte in the 1960s. Along the same lines, Dean Martin’s famous “Everybody Loves Somebody “ (Irving Taylor/Ken Lane/Sam Coslow) showcases a straight-from-the-hip interpretation, imbuing its lyric with sincerity.

The CD ends with “Lazy Afternoon” (John Latouche/Jerome Moross) which, given the frequency with which it appears on new CDs, I suspect the song’s publishers are flogging. Unfortunately, the arrangement features a Hammond B3 organ, but the tune still manages to be affective, stretching like a cat. The word “unfolds” actually does unfold; Ssss reclines and extends. Cole’s voice luxuriates.

I admit to not liking the sound of an electronic keyboard in jazz, especially in otherwise traditional arrangements.

The instrument seems to cheapen a song.

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Does Muzak ring a bell? Several otherwise good selections employ the instrument.

Cole has an attractive voice, but the CD ends sounding generic.

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Her personal stamp should come in somewhere.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.