Jazz pianist Ronnie Kole is a class act and consummate performer who is popular in both his own country and overseas. The New Orleans-based musician spends much time abroad in Europe and Asia, where his smooth sound and elegant persona lend themselves to refined venues and guest appearances with symphony orchestras. Kole is a piano man's piano man, admired by many top stars in the business, from Harry Connick Jr. to Allen Toussaint.
Born in Chicago, Kole was afflicted with heart trouble as a child, which landed him in a school for the handicapped. He received much encouragement there from the celebrities who made a point to visit. In return, Kole has become very involved in charitable and civic organizations in his professional career, such as the Easter Seal Society and the American Heart Association. He sits on more boards than there are ivory keys on the piano, and helped organize both the New Orleans Jazz Festival and the French Quarter Festival, and has made numerous appearances at both venues.
A protégé of Al Hirt, Kole began his professional career on television, gaining exposure on the Johnny Carson Show. After a stint in Las Vegas, he followed Hirt to New Orleans. Kole honed his act in Hirt's club on Bourbon Street, before opening his own club, Kole's Korner, which, along with Hirt and Pete Fountain's clubs, became a top venue to hear traditional jazz. The musician has received every conceivable award his adopted city has to offer, from a Lifetime Achievement Award to induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He has played for presidents and the Pope, and has performed in cities all over the world.
Kole retains complete artistic control over his own work, recording on his own label, Vintage Kole. Some of his CDs capture the charm of the man and his music, which leans toward the standards of a more civilized era. One is likely to hear the works of Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin. Good listening choices include Ronnie Kole at Carnegie Hall-Live (1996), Swing Hot Swing Kole (1996), and Kole Alone (1999). The year 2001 was a very busy year for the artist, who put out three CDs: Ronnie Kole Trio in Concert: Live, Music of the Vines, Vol. 2, and Top Ten Big Band Hits.
Kole's CD Music of the Vines, Vol. 2, as well as a previous volume, are cleverly arranged around his appearances at many chateaux throughout the wine country of France, where he is immensely popular. The exquisite settings are a perfect backdrop for a musician who sets the standard for elegance itself, in a way that perhaps no musical artist has done since Duke Ellington last sat down at the piano.