Freddy Cole – Talk To Me – High Note Records HCD 7225, 46:55 ****:
(Freddy Cole – vocals; Terell Stafford – trumpet; Harry Allen – tenor saxophone; John di Martino – piano; Randy Napoleon – guitar; Elias Bailey – bass; Curtis Boyd – drums)
Bing and Bob Crosby, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Nat and Freddy Cole, were brothers who had careers in the popular/jazz music world, but for whom real success and acclaim for the most part came only to one. However, in the case of Freddy Cole, he let the splendid timbre of his unhurried baritone create a niche all his own, and in this latest release “Talk To Me” delivers an album of songs that is uniquely his.
Using his working band of Napoleon, Bailey and Boyd as the core musical support, Cole brought in John di Martino on keyboards and then rounded out the band with Terell Stafford and Harry Allen to add interesting voicings to the arrangements. Leading off with the 1947 Frankie Laine hit “Mam’selle”, Freddy gives the lyrics their due and sings with a spot on romantic meaning. One of the more interesting features of this release is Cole’s performance of three tunes by the great R&B tunesmith Bill Withers. Starting off with a swinger “Lovely Day”, Cole capitalizes on the horns of Stafford and Allen to deliver a high octane presentation. The second Withers composition “You Just Can’t Smile It Away” gives Cole the occasion to send a soulful message. Finally on “My Imagination” Freddy uses the words to provide a pillow of comfort for the listener.
Moose Charlap (father of Bill) along with Don George composed the evocative “I Was Telling Her About You” which was released as the “B” side of the Al Hibbler 1956 hit Decca release “After The Lights Go Down Low”. Over the years this composition has been recorded many times by a variety of singers, but Freddy’s persuasive interpretation perhaps comes closest to the composers’ original intentions. The infectious rhythmic beat that anchored Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana” is reinterpreted by the arrangement John di Martino offers for “Can We Pretend? “and thereby gives Freddy the structure to deliver a cheerful rendition of the tune. The balance of the tunes on the disc, which are mostly unfamiliar pieces, follows the already established pattern of giving Cole the framework to sing songs that tell stories. Of particular note is the last tune on the disc “After All These Years” which was written by Freddy’s son Lionel. With only the accompaniment of di Martino at the piano, we get to appreciate the fullness of the Cole voice delivering a meaningful lyric.
While this undertaking is not going to give anyone hot flashes, it does confirm that Freddy Cole has a place as one of music’s finest vocalists.
TrackList: Mam’selle; Lovely Day; You Just Can’t Smile It Away; I Was Telling Her About You; Can We Pretend?; Speak To Me Of You; My Imagination; My First Impression Of You; Come Home; After All These Years
— Pierre Giroux