Freddy Cole: This and That

As both a vocalist and pianist, there’s a Zen-like quality to Freddy Cole, a languid introspectiveness that suggests we’re eavesdropping on his innermost musings. Cole’s never in a hurry-even upbeat tunes unfold like origami-nor ever inclined toward showy flourishes. In recent years, he’s found ideal support for his ruminative style and his silk-over-sandpaper vocals by teaming longtime drummer Curtis Boyd with two fine younger players, bassist Elias Bailey and guitarist Randy Napoleon.

This is that quartet’s fourth album and it follows Cole’s usual pattern, one that has deservedly earned him escalating success across nearly two dozen albums over the past quarter-century. Using a couple of sturdy standards as cornerstones-in this case “I Saw Stars” and “Sometimes I’m Happy”-he then digs for rarities from the African-American songbook, including Terry Callier’s lovely “What Color Is Love?” and Timmie Rogers and Al Fields’ droll “Nothin’s Wrong With Nothin’.” He completes the package by skillfully re-imagining an assortment of pop tunes, notably Paul Williams’ “You and Me Against the World,” Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin'” and the Shirley Bassey anthem “Never, Never, Never.” And there’s always a nod or two to big brother Nat, here acknowledged with a significantly slowed rendition of the playful “Bang Bang Boogie” and, long overdue for fresh appreciation, the lilting list song “I Get Sentimental Over Nothing.”