The inimitable crooner Freddy Cole, the very definition of urbanity and suave, has had the luck and good fortune to have been consistently recorded since the early 90’s. Not by choice is Cole a late bloomer – he’s 80 now -- but it’s taken the special partnership between the singer and producer Todd Barkan to reveal the full measure of Cole’s talent. Cole is a subtle showman; having honed a unique sound that’s relaxed and laid back, though never dull.
On “Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B” (High Note), the cosmos align for the singer by way of concept, material, accompaniment and flow. Cole’s connection with the late, great Billy Eckstine is personal – he was both a friend and a contemporary of Cole’s brother, Nat. Here, his honeyed voice reveals a trace of grit and the presence of wisdom, and the way that he “talk sings” the lyrics to “Tender Is The Night,” and “Cottage For Sale” only make these well-worn standards sound more honest and authentic. Equal justice is accorded to a swinging “Jelly, Jelly” (a big hit for Eckstine), “Ma, She’s Makin’ Eyes At Me” and a jaunty “To Be Or Not To Be In Love.” Cole’s vocals are nestled in cozy arrangements courtesy of guitarist Randy Napoleon and pianist John Di Martino, while Houston Person sends up billowy clouds of sound on his meaty tenor sax solos.
Considering his discography as a whole suggests that Cole may be the best male jazz singer of the last 15 years, and this recording in particular is highly recommended. (12 tracks; 60:46)
Labels: Billy Eckstine, Freddy Cole, High Note Records, Houston Person, John DiMartino, Randy Napoleon, Todd Barkan