With his “gorgeous autumnal baritone, expressive phrasing and pitch-perfect feel for jazz standards, pop tunes and love ballads,” (according to People magazine) jazz legend Freddy Cole has been captivating audiences across the world since the 1950s.
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Roger Williams University welcomes Cole – recipient of the 2005 Grammy Living Legend Award – for an intimate performance featuring the Freddy Cole Quartet with saxophonist Harry Allen, a virtuoso jazz musician in his own right who grew up in Burrillville, R.I.
“America’s most significant cultural contribution to the world may be jazz and the Great American Songbook,” says Robert M. Eisinger, dean of the University’s Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences. “Bringing the Freddy Cole Quartet with Harry Allen to Roger Williams is a wonderful opportunity to showcase excellence as we simultaneously educate our students, faculty, staff and community about how we value the performing arts. Freddy Cole and his quartet are internationally recognized as paragons of the jazz community, and Rhode Islander Harry Allen is renowned locally, nationally and even internationally. We are thrilled to host them and look forward to a memorable, world-class event.”
Born into a life of music, Cole followed in the footsteps of his three elder brothers, who included fellow legend Nat King Cole. Recalling his childhood in Chicago, where celebrated musicians Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton were frequent visitors to his parents’ home, the 82-year-old performer recalls: “Music was all around me.”
No other calling was fated for Cole. A hand injury as a teenager ended a prospective career in the NFL, steering Cole back to his musical roots. After studying at the Roosevelt Institute, the Julliard School of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music, Cole fine-tuned his chops playing in Chicago clubs and Manhattan bistros, paying the bills by doing commercial jingle work for radio and television.
Cole is often compared to his older brother, Nat King Cole – both sing and play piano, upright bass and guitar – but critics describe Freddy Cole’s phrasing as more akin to Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday and his vocals as smokier yet suave, elegant and formidable. According to the New York Times, “Freddy has an impeccable sense of swing … he is, overall, the most maturely expressive male jazz singer of his generation, if not the best alive.”
The Tuesday, Nov. 12, concert at Roger Williams take places at 7:30 p.m. in Global Heritage Hall on the University's Bristol campus at One Old Ferry Road. The event is free and open to the public – no tickets or reservations are required. Any questions can be directed to (401) 254-3201.
This event is sponsored by the New York Times, the Roger Williams University Office of the President, the Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences, WQRI Radio and the Campus Entertainment Network.