|The Velvet Note
About twenty-five miles due north of downtown , a short thirty minute ride up rte 400, is the Velvet Note possibly the best jazz club in the Metro Atlanta area. General Manager Tamara Fuller, like many of us a transplanted New Yorker, started this club almost four years ago with the idea of creating a club that would appeal to musicians, a place where people could experience live music in a living room setting with exceptional sound. To that end she employed an acoustic design engineer to create an atmosphere that maintains vocal and instrumental fidelity throughout the space. The casual, rug clad space is curiously located in a renovated retail store in a strip mall flanked by a Chiropractic office and a Barber Shop. In keeping with the intimate, living room style there are some small tables, some larger community tables, some randomly placed chairs and even a comfortable sofa on which to sit and a rather generous stage that can be seen easily from almost every vantage.
The venue seats about fifty patrons comfortably and food and drink are available from a courteous and helpful staff. On this past Saturday evening the Note brought Atanta’s own Freddy Cole and his quartet in for an evening of story and song. Mr. Cole is a dapper eighty-four years young and truly one of America’s enduring treasures. He still commands a subtle baritone whose warmth fills you like the first sip of a glass of fine cognac. He was joined by his working quartet of Randy Napoleon on guitar, Elias Bailey on bass and Quentin Baxter on drums. Mr. Cole is a fine pianist who plays sparingly in the Basie style and who often cites the Modern Jazz Quartet’s pianist John Lewis as an enduring influence. He actively tours with this group who know his every move and it is a marvel to witness such organic symbiosis between his fellow musicians. Mr. Cole is notoriously known for never pre-arranging his set list preferring to read his audience and choose his material extemporaneously- keeping his musicians guessing. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Great American Songbook and never uses charts.
At this sold out show, Mr. Cole started the first set with a song from Frank Sinatra’s repertoire “ A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening.” The medium tempo song got the audience in the right mood and you could see this band could swing. The second song was a slow ballad “You’re Bringing the Dreamer Out in Me” and was originally sung by his brother Nat in 1958 with the arranger Nelson Riddle. Mr. Cole can make any song bristle with emotion in his most personal conversational way.
|Freddy Cole Singing the Blues
“Wild is Love” is from a self produced Nat Cole musical score I’m With You, music by Ray Rasch and lyrics Dotty Wade, again arranged by the inimitable Nelson Riddle. The show was supposed to be Nat Cole’s entry onto Broadway but it never caught on. Bassist Bailey pulses the bossa beat as Mr. Cole sang out the boisterous refrain “Wild is Love.” The sentiment about a man looking for love among many choices is perfectly believable from the octogenarian whose wizened ways clearly come through in the telling.
Other highlights of Mr. Cole’s performance “I Loved You” It’s Crazy,” “Old Folks,”“Something Happens to Me” and “Sometimes I Love You”
The quartet is tight and nimble taking the lead from Mr. Cole with Mr. Napoleon’s facile guitar work being the principle other lead voice in this group. Mr. Bailey is steadfast in his rhythmic consistency and Mr. Baxter showed some subtle brush work on occasion. For the most part this group looks to their leader for direction and respectfully never upstage him, preferring to allow him the deserved spotlight.
With the holiday just around the corner Mr. Cole treated the audience to a medley of Christmas songs including a down home blues titled “Blue Christmas.” What Christmas would be complete without Freddy Cole singing the heartfelt “Christmas Song” made famous by his brother Nat. The baritone went into the sentimental “Old Days, Old Times, Old Friends” and ended the evening ended with the playful“Jingles the Christmas Cat.”
Mr. Cole will be playing at the St. Regis Hotel in NYC on Dec 21st and then reside at Birdland in New York City from December 22 through 26th. His latest album is Singing the Blues If you plan to be in New York for the Holidays seeing the romantic crooner live would be the perfect gift for that someone special.