A Jazz Legend Speaks
An interview with Freddy Cole
The Scranton Jazz Festival is proud to welcome The Freddy Cole Quartet, featuring Freddy Cole piano/vocals, Elias Bailey bass, Curtis Boyd drums, and Randy Napoleon guitar.
He has emerged from the shadow cast by his elder brother Nat King Cole to secure a place in jazz music all his own. After playing and singing in Chicago clubs as a teenager, Cole has enjoyed a successful career with many critics likening his smooth vocals to Frank Sinatra. Cole took some time to speak with us about his start in the music industry, his career and his approach to playing a festival.
You started playing music at an early age. How did music enter your life?
That’s kind of hard to explain. It’s been around me all of my life. Everybody in my family had been a musician; my mother played piano and was a choir director; my brothers and sisters played; everybody played. Music was just a natural thing. It’s funny how things rub off on you. You don’t know it then, but you do after you get older. You realize what was happening.
How has the music changed for you throughout the years? Has your approach to performing evolved as well?
Yes. You grow with the times. Things enter around you and influence you. Whether you know it or not, you store it into that computer you have up there you call a brain. Then you can apply these techniques.
What are some memorable moments?
I have so many; I couldn’t begin to tell you. Life’s been very good to me. I can’t complain. Having had the privilege of being around such great entertainers like Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Greer, Miles Davis. I can go on for ever and ever.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a successful musician?
I don’t know. I hope that never happens. (Laughs.) When that happens, I’m on my way out and you’ll have to carry me down the aisle.
How do you get ready to play something like the Scranton Jazz Festival? Is a set list prepared beforehand?
There’s no set list. I don’t use a set list anyway. Some people do, but I don’t. We’ll play to what’s happening with the crowd. I get my vibes back from the audience. We’ll play along those lines. We’ll play all the way from Broadway to the blues. This is my first time playing Scranton Jazz Fest, but I’ve played Scranton many, many years ago and I used to live in Philadelphia. I played all over that area.
So maybe you’ll see some old faces in the crowd.
Yeah. (Laughs.) Mine will be old too!
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
We have a new CD out now (This and That) and hopefully it’ll get bigger and bigger and maybe snatch a Grammy. We’ve had good reactions and good reviews (no. 8 on the jazz charts). Then we’re going back to Europe and South America.
What are some things you’d still like to achieve?
To be able to continue on the level that I am and maybe even try to improve a bit, I hope. (Laughs.) To play to as many people as I can before I leave this planet earth. To spread the word of music around is a wonderful thing. When you get on that bandstand, you forget about everything else in the world except that music and that’s the greatest feeling. Musicians have a way of getting lost in music.
— tom graham