Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Freddy Cole: He Was the King

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Musically speaking, Freddy Cole has long maintained a rather schizophrenic relationship with his big brother. Freddy was only 33 when Nat died in 1965. Just starting to secure attention as a vocalist and pianist, he found himself overwhelmed by Nat’s giant shadow. His career stalled and it wasn’t until the 1990s that he came fully into his own. Firm in his determination to shake the connection, he went so far as bluntly titling one album I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me. Conversely, however, Freddy has also set a pattern of adding a Nat-associated tune or two to most of his discs. Now, at long last, he’s decided to openly embrace Nat’s legacy with this 12-track salute.

While vocal similarities to Nat persist, particularly in cadence and phrasing, Freddy has emerged as a more jazz-savvy singer, appreciably graveled at 84 yet sagely inventive. Alongside regular bandmates Elias Bailey (bass) and Randy Napoleon (guitar)-joined by drummer Quentin Baxter, pianist John di Martino (with Freddy stepping in on two tracks) and a trio of horns anchored by alternating tenor saxophonists Harry Allen and Houston Person-he digs deep into Nat’s songbook. There’s a smattering of hits, including “Mona Lisa” and a winningly balladic “Sweet Lorraine.” More interesting are such comparatively obscure choices as “That’s My Girl,” “Maybe It’s Because I Love You Too Much” and the whimsical “The Best Man.” Freddy closes with the self-penned title track, a warm eulogistic hug.

Originally Published