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Cole, Freddy

brother career nat chicago

Cole, Freddy, American singer, pianist; b. Chicago, III., Oct. 15, 1931. Although he sounds a lot like his famous brother, Nat “King” Cole (d. 1965), he has a style all his own. The youngest of the five children of Edward and Paulina Nancy Cole, Freddy was influenced by three older brothers, Eddie, Ike, and Nat. The family moved from Ala. to the South side of Chicago where he was born. He had started playing by age six; by his early he teens was playing professionally. Brother Eddie (d. 1970) was a bassist who led his own bands, Nat played piano, and brother Ike resides and works as a singer-pianist in Ariz. Cole has been recording since he was 21 years old, starting his career in 1952 with the single, ‘The Joke’s on Me,” for the obscure, Chicago-based Topper Records. Some moderate hit singles for various small labels followed and, in the 1980s, Cole formed his own label, First Shot.

In spite of his early talents, Cole was set to pursue a career in football until he injured his hand at age 16, and subsequent infection, operations, and intensive physical therapy kept him from realizing his gridiron dream. He began playing piano and singing in hometown clubs, pursued formal musical education at the Roosevelt Inst. in Chicago, and in 1951 was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music. In 1953 he spent several months on the road with Earl Bostic’s band with Johnny Coles and Benny Golson. He studied further at Boston’s New England Cons, of Music, earning a master’s degree in 1956. In N.Y.C, he established his career, developing a vast repertoire of songs in Manhattan’s posh bistros, performing commercial studio work as a pianist, and later, as vocalist. His recordings during the 1970s helped establish his international career and, able to sing a few songs in French, Portuguese, and Spanish, he continues to enjoy a big following in Brazil. Living in the shadow of older brother Nat, fame eluded him for years until his pivotal 1991 Sunnyside album, I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me (now out of print), and albums as leader for Sunny-side, Laserlight, and Muse. After signing with the Fantasy label in 1994 and making four albums, Cole has achieved the broader recognition he deserves. He tours widely with his trio throughout Europe, the Far East, and Brazil, in addition to performing at major U.S. jazz festivals and in nightclubs.

Cole, Nat King (1919–1965) [next] [back] Cole, Cozy (actually, William Randolph)

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