June 2007

Freddy Cole Quartet
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 22, 2007 Live@Courthouse Toronto
“I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me”
by Paul J. Youngman
Freddy Cole performing in a quartet, a pure jazz show of sophistication and elegance, not the only jazz show in town, this being the first day of the Toronto jazz festival but having it staged at the top rated nightclub Live@Courthouse meant for an intimate, choice venue, the perfect place to see such a performance. The fact that it was standing room only did nothing more than increase my expectations as to the type of show we were in for.

Jazz.Fm radio host Walter Venafro introduced Mr. Cole as, “Freddy Cole, the one with the smokier, jazzier voice and who is always swinging”. The lead in had to be that voice, sotto voce piano wafts gently in with delicate playing in a minimalist fashion, a well placed chord and a few individual notes played and placed in the sweet spots, there could be no other. The rhythm section was in support and completely in the groove, complementing the outpouring of emotion that flowed from the voice and the piano playing of Freddy Cole. The first song of the evening ended with the crowd offering an extended applause, the band actually looked surprised at the level of appreciation displayed by the audience, during both the introduction and the completion of the first of many romantic ballads.

The stage was set for what was to be an exceptional performance, all about love, living and romance as interpreted by one of the smoothest and coolest jazz vocalists still performing at his peak. Smoothly, Mr. Cole flowed into “It’s Crazy When I’m In Love”. Mr. Cole maintained a warm and friendly demeanour throughout the show, keeping the talk to a minimum. He mentioned he had CDs available. He was kept very busy during the intermission and after the show with merchandising and providing autographs.

After the second song he introduced the members of his band, Bruce Edwards, guitar, Elias Bailey, acoustic bass and Curtis Boyd playing drums. Mr. Cole made mention of the songs he would perform, saying in his sing-song voice, “This is an invitation to relaxation”. I’m not really sure if he was speaking to us or singing to us. Was this the song title or a quote? A laid back ballad ensued with a guitar break of serene beauty by Mr. Edwards. The guitar tone and style were wonderfully melodic and as smooth as silk, a fitting and complementary match to Freddy Cole’s vocal tone.

Freddy Cole
The first set flowed from beginning to end with the ease of a single pleasing and entrancing note. Songs like “Just The Way You Are”, “How Wonderful You Are”, “My Hat's On The Side Of My Head”, “Them There Eyes”, “Because Of You”, “What Are You Afraid Of”, and a medley of hits, “Straighten Up And Fly Right”, “Sweet Lorraine”, “Mona Lisa”, “Unforgettable” and “I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me” as well as the closer, “I’ll Be Seeing You” — all this and more, in just the first set, a well deserved standing ovation occurred after the final song. I have never witnessed a standing ovation in a club, fantastic!

The second set was as good, if not better than the first set, as the band members were a little more relaxed and playing their breaks with more energy and spontaneity. The bassist and drummer are a tight unit that sound as one. The bass player, Elias Bailey informed me he has been playing with Freddy Cole and Curtis Boyd for two years. The guitarist Bruce Edwards is the newest member of the group, serving in the rhythm section for about two months. The rhythm section individually and as a unit are exceptional. You will not find a bass player more in the groove than Mr. E. Bailey, he’s on top of what’s happening and when break out time is called for he swings as a man possessed. The drumming of Curtis Boyd is a treat, a cymbal specialist — or perhaps it’s the magic sound of his designer Bosphorus cymbals, since he endorses the line I think he probably creates much of the magic. Dynamics, rhythm and swing with intricate fills to bring the vocal-entranced listeners back to earth, an accompanist of the highest order.

The show ended all too soon. Mr. Cole announced the last song and after the finale the audience cheered and cheered. The band immediately launched into another song, this went on for three more numbers. The audience loved every minute of this musical serenade by the number one Cole in jazz, no not Nat — Freddy and the crowd stood up and cheered in respect of this musical shinning star.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
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