Freddy Cole is in Chicago for a 4-night engagement at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase. As Joe pointed out last night, the Showcase is celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year. Cole has 15 years on the Showcase.
I love seeing our jazz treasures. The years of performing and experimenting are often on display, as they were during Cole's set. Accompanied by a bass player, drummer Henry Cornerway III, and guitarist Randy Napoleon, Cole lead a very subtle, but powerful quartet, playing a number of selections from the American Songbook, as well as a tune by Sonny Boy Williamson, which reflects the influence of the blues that pervades Cole's entire effort.
Earlier in the day, I heard large bull frogs croaking on the grounds of Fermi Labs. It seems one jumped in the car with me, and ended up on the stage of the Showcase in front of a piano. While Cole's voice is outwardly deep and gravely, there is a silky undertone to his delivery, with each word clearly enunciated. Aged Scotch anybody?
As for Cole's piano style, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Doctor Feelgood have little to fear in terms of speed and pounding the 88s. It is amazing that any sound comes out of the piano giving Cole's delicate touch, but it does, and it is rewarding for those who listen closely.
My favorite song of the night was The Best Man, which has wonderful word play, similar to one of my Dee Alexander/Nancy Wilson favorites, Guess Who I Saw Today. Bob Dylan may want to add these two classics to his reimagined American Songbook.
And checkout those hands. Clearly they are the hands of a piano player. At one point, Cole reminisced about days gone by on 63rd and Cottage Grove. Would have been nice to come of age 50 years ago.
On the way out, I purchased Cole's latest album on Blue Note, He Was the King, an apparent tribute to his older brother, Nat King Cole. There is some similarity in their voices and (facial features), but Freddy is his own man.
I would have liked to photograph the other musicians, too, but Conerway was fully obscured by a large cymbal, the bassist stood in front of Charlie Parker poster, and Napoleon hid behind the piano. As for a shot of Cole from the side (over the piano), he was low in the chair and the mike hid his face, so the photograph didn't work.