Freddy Cole

Waiter, Ask the Man to Play the Blues

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Freddy Cole may not have been as well known or quite as gifted as his brother Nat, but that doesn't mean he's not a brilliant singer and pianist. This 1964 date for Dot, with bassist Milt Hinton, Sam Taylor on tenor, Osie Johnson on drums, and alternating guitarists Barry Galbraith and Wally Richardson, is a case in point. This is Cole just playing and singing the swinging blues in a relaxed small-combo setting. His tune selection is flawlessly suited to his voice, a darkling instrument with a very slight roughness in its grain. The title track features a late-night, forlorn groove with the piano punching lines as Cole's vocal effortlessly floats on top and guitars and the rhythm section whisper in the background. "Black Night," with Taylor leading the parade, is on a more straight-up R&B tip, and Cole's vocal with its swinging ease and depth makes this a standout on an album full of them. Jimmy Witherspoon's "Rain Is Such a Lonesome Sound" is rawer and rougher, but his croon and growl still entwine effortlessly with the band's strut. Sam Chatmon's "This Life I'm Living" is a tough swaggering blues done in prime vintage '50s R&B style, with Cole's baritone digging deep into the lyric as his piano punches between his sung lines. Finally issued on CD in 2004 in completely remastered form as part of Verve's limited-edition Original Classics series, it's a stellar example of vocal jazz and blues with Cole's considerable gifts on full display.

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