Arts Desk

Freddy Cole @ Blues Alley

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To hear pianist and singer Freddy Cole at Blues Alley is to melt back to a time of old-fashioned melodies, smokey red-lit supper clubs and smooth singers. OK, without the smoke, but we won't blame Freddy for that.

During his Sunday night set, Cole entertained diners with his hallmark twinkle, serving up a set of gentle, nostalgic love songs. "Come a little closer, stay a little longer," sang a magnetic Cole, in a masterful rendition of Tony Bennett's classic "What Are You Afraid Of?"

Cole's repertoire is unabashedly romantic. He just wants "a little girl to love a lot", or "a Sunday kind of love." You get the picture–and you might think that it would make you want to vomit. But Cole's cool, relaxed demeanor and cheeky showmanship prevent it from becoming cloyingly sentimental.

Cole at times left his piano, relying on the accompaniment of guitarist Randy Napoleon, drummer Curtis Boyd, and bassist Elias Bailey. Like the pianist, none of them throw away notes, preferring an uncluttered counterpoint. Napoleon's unhurried, light touches lace perfectly with Cole's, whether he's answering the pianist's melodies in short phrases or taking the stage with longer improvisations.

A mention should also go to Bailey's right shoulder, which seemed to have a life of its own, jigging up and down when the bassist was excited. But that was the extent of agitation on display–a renegade limb, in a room where unruffled nonchalance reigned.

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