Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Cole, Freddy (Lionel Frederick)

Cole, Freddy (Lionel Frederick), pianist, singer; b. 15 October 1931. Heis the youngest of Edward and Paulina Nancy Cole's five children. His three elder brothers, Eddie, Ike, and Nat (12 years Freddy's senior), were all musicians. He started playing piano at five or six.

In the Chicago home of his youth, visitors included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton. He also credits Billy Eckstine as a major influence. After a possible career with the NFL was shelved due to a hand injury, he began playing and singing in Chicago clubs as a teenager. Although he was ready to hit the road at 18, his mother intervened and he continued his musical education at the Roosevelt Institute in Chicago. Freddy moved to New York in 1951, where he studied at the Juilliard School of Music and found himself profoundly influenced by John Lewis, Oscar Peterson, and Teddy Wilson. He got a master's degree at the New England Conservatory of Music and then spent several months on the road as a member of an Earl Bostic band that also included Johnny Coles and Benny Golson.

It was back in New York that Freddy successfully laid the groundwork for a career that continues to this day. He developed a vast repertoire of songs in Manhattan bistros and concurrently began to supplement his live performances with television and radio commercial jingle work. A resident of Atlanta since 1972, he currently leads a quartet made up of himself, guitarist Gerry Byrd, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Curtis Boyd that regularly tours the U.S., Europe, the Far East, and South America. Freddy has been a recording artist since 1952, when his first single, "The Joke's on Me," was released on the obscure Chicago-based Topper label. The following year, he produced a moderate hit, "Whispering Grass," for Columbia's OKeh subsidiary. After making singles and albums for Dot, De-Lite, and other domestic labels in the Fifties and Sixties, Freddy recorded several albums for European and English companies during the Seventies that helped him to develop a loyal overseas following, especially in Brazil.

Cole believes that becoming an international favorite made him "widen my scope a little bit." He developed a stand-up act, a better rapport with audiences, and learned to sing in other languages. "It made me much more of a performer." Freddy cut albums for his own Atlanta-based First Shot and Dinky labels during the Seventies and Eighties and for the Sunnyside and Laserlight labels in the early Nineties, before joining the Fantasy family.

Iim Not My Brother, Iim Me (1990);
Live at Birdland West (1992);
This Is the Life (1993);
I Want a Smile For Christmas (1994);
Always (1994);
Le Grand Freddy

Louis-Victor Mialy: Nat King Cole Legacy. Freddie Cole, in: Jazz Hot, special issue (1995)
Willard Jenkins: Freddy Cole. Singular, Present, Tense, in: Jazz Times, 26/7 (Sep.1996)

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