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Pianist-led trio hooks up with swinging singer Freddy Cole

Published January 3, 2013 11:10 am

Music • Jazz singer has made a career out of a voice that makes him more than just Nat's brother.
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There are some things that science can't account for when it comes to chemistry: Take New York's premier jazz trio, add one of the world's finest vocalists, and a magic happens that math doesn't explain.

"It will be a really special concert," JazzSLC Founder Gordon Hanks said. "Freddy Cole is the most expressive jazz singer of his generation. He's an elegant person and elegant vocalist."

And currently, Bill Charlap is considered New York's premier jazz pianist, according to Hanks. "Together with his sidemen, Kenny Washington and Peter Washington, they are New York's best jazz trio, hands down."

Charlap and Cole have worked together over the years and still collaborate occasionally. Most of their work is done with their respective trios.

But when they get together, magic happens — as when they recorded the album "Music Maestro Please" together, which was nominated for a Grammy. "It's going to be a joy to be with Freddy," Charlap said. "It's just a very good and natural chemistry that we find between Kenny, Peter, myself and Freddy Cole."

In addition to their professional collaboration, Cole said, the two are close-knit friends. "I sang at his wedding when he got married," he said. "We're just good buddies."

Cole is the younger brother of Nat King Cole and comes from a very musical family. "There were five of us — four boys and one girl — and we were all musicians," he said.

He remembers visitors like Duke Ellington and Count Basie sometimes stopping by the house when he was growing up. "It wasn't a big deal to me because I was just a kid," he said. "I didn't really know the stature of those people at that time. But they were friends of my two other brothers."

Cole's athletic prowess almost sidelined his musical career; he said that he had been offered several college scholarships to play football. "I got hurt in the last game that I played in, which caused me not to pick up on those football scholarships. I call that my musical blessing."

Instead, he ended up studying at the Juilliard School of Music and earning a master's degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. Since then, he has established himself as an internationally acclaimed pianist/singer.

The interesting thing about Cole, Hanks noted, is that he is an accomplished musician yet has managed to remain somewhat under the radar, possibly because of his older brother's legacy.

"Freddy has a CD out called 'I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me,' and I think that kind of says it all," Hanks said. "That must be hard to be such a great talent and have people not recognize you as being Freddy Cole, but the brother of Nat Cole. That's kind of a tough thing to do."

Charlap also comes from a musical family. His most recent CD, "Something to Remember," is a duo album with his mother, singer Sandy Stewart. It features songs from composers such as Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and his father, Broadway composer "Moose" Charlap.

He also enjoys collaborating with his wife, jazz pianist Renee Rosnes. "Renee is one of my favorite jazz pianists even if we weren't married," he said. "When I play with Renee, there's just a natural chemistry. We're musically on the same page."

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A jazzy musical friendship

The GAM Foundation presents the Bill Charlap Trio with singer Freddy Cole.

Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

When • Saturday, Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets • $25; at 801-355-2787 or arttix.org