Freddy Cole: The Dreamer in Me

Once upon a time, it was nearly impossible to listen to Freddy Cole without being reminded of his elder brother. There was nothing intentional about it; if anything, the similarity of their vocal blueprints was a curse for Freddy, whose eagerness to carve a distinct niche once prompted him to title an album I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me. More recently, as Freddy’s baritone has become raspier, the ghost of Nat has grown continuously faint. Indeed, throughout this gorgeously supple set, captured two years ago at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Lincoln Center, Freddy is entirely freed of fraternal echoes. A priceless quality of Nat’s does, however, remain.

A true gentleman of song, Freddy shares his brother’s courtliness, seamless in his ability to create an atmosphere that is elegantly smooth yet warmly familiar. Such assuredness requires no grand gestures; his musicianship is immensely rich, but never ostentatious. You can hear it in his “Where Can I Go Without You?” Gently bathing it in mellow reflection heightens the lyric’s ache, achieving precisely the same stunning effect that Nat accomplished with “Around the World.” It is equally evident in his breezy “On the South Side of Chicago,” scented with sweet childhood memories.

But most striking is “You’re Sensational.” When Sinatra first performed it in High Society, it became a whirling carousel of lush romanticism. Freddy opts for a less-is-more approach. He is not so much paying a compliment as stating an irrefutable truth, and nothing could be more quixotically enchanting.