It’s Monday at noon, a rather anomalous time for a jazz performance. Nor is the venue your typical jazz room. Stage West, slightly out of place in an industrialized suburban corridor near the Toronto airport, usually caters to retro music revues and road-show comedies starring second bananas from ’70s TV series. But on this particular afternoon, Freddy Cole has been booked, and the capacious space is almost full. The average age hovers around 70. They’re here for the lunchtime buffet and, one suspects, the hope of catching a hint of elder brother Nat in Freddy’s performance. He doesn’t disappoint, filling the first set almost exclusively with material from his recent albums but subsequently indulging the crowd’s nostalgic yen with a lengthy medley of Nat’s hits.
Snippets of “Mona Lisa” and “Unforgettable” are greeted with far more boisterous applause than anything else Freddy has played or sung, but he takes it in stride. He knows there will be more dates like this, plenty of them; but his chockablock schedule will also offer up plenty of opportunities to fully exercise his jazz chops. It is, he sagely appreciates, all good. Indeed, onstage and in post-concert conversation, there is a remarkable tranquility about Freddy Cole. It’s not reserve, or shyness, but hard-won contentment.