Q & A with Freddy Cole 

Jazz vocalist opens up about making his mark in the 
shadow of his brother, Nat ‘King’ Cole.

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Jazz vocalist Freddy Cole never had a sibling rivalry with his older brother Nat, one of the most renowned male vocalists of all time and one of the first African-American entertainers to have his own television show. The late crooner immortalized such songs as “Unforgettable” and “Mona Lisa.” Fact is, when the brothers got together they seldom discussed music and mostly talked sports.

Cole, 82, has a voice that’s smooth and endearing with 30 albums to his credit. His 2010 album, Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B, was a tribute to his role model, Billy Eckstine, and garnered a Grammy nomination. Detroit is one of Cole’s favorite cities to perform. In September, he sang at the Detroit Jazz Festival and he makes his second appearance this year at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. We talked to Cole about his early memories gigging in Detroit and making his mark as a jazz vocalist. 

Metro Times: Can you recall your first performance in Detroit?

Freddy Cole: Actually, I remember it vividly. The first time I played in Detroit, it was this month in 1953. I played at the Flame Show Bar on John R and Canfield. I played with local guys like Beans Bowles, and a trumpeter, I can’t recall his name right now, but he ended up being Diana Ross’ music director. The band I played with had a lot of Detroit cats. I got the opportunity to meet all the jazz cats like Donald Towns, who became my good friend.

MT: Back then, before you began gigging in Detroit, were you hip to its reputation as a happening jazz town?

Cole: You know, I’m from Chicago and being young back then, and being in the music business, I would hear things about all the cats that could play. Detroit is where I met and became friends with Kenny Burrell.

MT: Your older brother, Nat “King” Cole, was one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time. Was there ever a sibling rivalry?

Cole: Surprisingly, there wasn’t. When we used to get together, the music was the last thing we talked about. People have a hard time understanding that, but that’s the truth. We were sports enthusiasts: baseball, football and basketball. Our conversations would drift to sports over music.

MT: Did be