Romantic Jazz

Romantic Jazz brought to you by the Master – Freddy Cole and his group. A Valentine’s special treat, as Freddy sings and plays as only he can.


Freddy Cole said he was “fair to partly cloudy” the other day, but from the easy way he talked and the frequency of his chuckles on the phone from his home in Atlanta, he sounded “mostly sunny.”

Cole, younger sibling of the late, great Nat “King” Cole, has just released a new album, “Love Makes the Changes,” featuring tunes by such familiar composers as Michel Legrand, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Jimmy van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. He is accompanied by such jazz musicians as Cedar Walton, Eric Alexander and Grover Washington Jr., among others.

Freddy Cole’s heart is in jazz.

“I definitely love jazz best,” he said, “but I’m not limited just to jazz. I do from Broadway to the blues. And I’m very aware of contemporary artists. There’s no telling what I might do.”

In concert, he performs some of the tunes made famous by brother Nat. But he wouldn’t always have done that.

“For a long time I just stayed away from it completely because everyone was talking about comparisons. There is no comparison,” Freddy Cole said.

“I’ve learned how to deal with that aspect in my life. I was stagnant – I let it keep me stagnant. But when I started to deal with it, I started to move forward.”

Nat “King” Cole was 12 1/2 years older than Freddy, who now is 66. “Even though there was an age difference between my brother and me, there was always something special in our household,” Freddy said. The older brother already had some measure of success while the younger one was still in school. “He used to come home to watch me play football,” Cole said.

There were five children; Freddy was the youngest. And it was a musical household from the beginning. The father, Edward, was a minister and also led a band called the Solid Swingers. Mother Paulina played piano and directed the church choir. “There has always been music in the house. All of us played music.”

Freddy Cole started playing piano at 5. “I just looked up one day and started playing,” he said. “It was just a musical gift, a blessing, I guess.”

But he didn’t become serious about music until much later. He was going to be a pro athlete. “I was heavily into sports, all-state football, baseball, you name it. Unfortunately I got hurt playing football, and I couldn’t go on. I had several scholarship offers,” he said. He also was scouted to play baseball. “The Dodgers wanted to sign me,” he said, “but my dad wouldn’t let me.”

He studied music instead. During his teens, he began playing and singing in clubs in his hometown of Chicago. At 20, he was admitted to the Julliard School of Music in New York. He got a master’s in music from the New England Conservatory of Music and started his professional career.

“I haven’t had the amount of success that some might think I should have had,” he said, “but I have no regrets. I’m very happy with what I’ve chosen to do in life.”

There are similarities of honeyed tone and phrasing in Freddy Cole’s singing that suggest his brother. It can’t be helped. “It’s just a family thing,” he said. “You can talk to my brother Ike on the phone and think you’re talking to me. We’re all very much alike.”

It has been suggested that Freddy Cole might had more success had he not been Nat’s younger brother, but he disagrees. “I’ve not been hindered,” he said. “Had there not been Nat Cole, there might not be Freddy Cole. In my way of looking at it, it’s just lack of exposure.

“Timing plays an important part in everyone’s life,” he said. “Right now, I feel that my time has got here. I’ve worked hard over the years to get to this point of life.”

“There’s one song on my new album that really states it. It’s the second one, ‘On My Way to You,’ and it says, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing.’

“And truly, I wouldn’t.”

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