Freddy ColeFreddy Cole at the Plush Room, York Hotel, San Francisco

Melanie Williams and Robert Carmack need to be commended for bringing top named Jazz performers to the Plush Room. The Plush Room has been useing mostly cabaret singers, which is also good. However, as Ms. Williams had noted in her interview with our publisher, Haybert Houston, that there are a number of legendary Jazz musicians, locally and otherwise, who wouldn't mind playing in a very intimate room like the Plush Room.

The venue holds maybe, at the most, onehundredthirty people, but it is upfront and close, as if the performer is talking, singing, playing right in your living room. That was what it sounded like the night we went to hear Freddy Cole.

Doug Carn 

Doug Karn

 Bootza Necak

 Larry HancockLarry Hancock

The set started with pianist Doug Carn , Bootza Necak on bass and Larry Hancock on drums, right on "Stella by Starlight." Pianist was expressive. His left hand was as awesome as his right. He has a Peterson touch. Bass was dancing. Drums were highlighting. They were in a groove right from the start. In "Alone Together," Carn's voluminous chords were matched by bassist's prowness. They were very good together.

Freddy Cole, in a light tan suit and matching silk tie, joined the trio and started with "I'll Wait For You." His voice, light and easy, is like talking, no forcing, no belching. None is necessary. "Fly Me To the Moon" was intimate. The bass was walking gently, brushes were keeping the beat, piano chording easily, creating a very sensitive background. It was beautifully done.
Freddy Cole

Cole sat down on the piano and ably accompanied himself on "Just the Way You Are." He doesn't have the kind of technique as Carn, who, apparantly was trained well on the piano, but Freddy's easy singing was also translated to the keyboard. It was a mostly right-handed solo on "Candy." It was simple, but swinging. "Invitation," from his Rio de Jeniro Blues album, with a Latin beat, was sweet and soft. Cole doesn't have a wide range, but he makes it work for thim. Hancock accompanied with mallets on this piece, creating interesting rhythm and sound by hitting the rim and the skin of his drums alternately.

"On My Way To You" was like one reminesing, talking to oneself, reflecting. A beautiful love song with a warm piano interlude and strong melodious bass line.

The second set started with a fiery "Firm Roots" with the trio. It was a workout for the group. The drums played the melody - somthing that we love to hear. "Peace Piece" was offered meditatively by Hancock on the brushes, then he surrendered the melody to the bass while the piano just chorded. Carn improvised on the harp of the piano by strumming it like a guitar in the classical piece "Balero" and made it work.

Cole came back and simply sang "My One and Only Love" in his slightly husky voice. He doesn't scat and he doesn't try to, but it was alright. He keeps the music swinging.

James Williams and Freddy ColeIt just happened that pianist, composer, James Williams was in the audience, and he was invited on stage to do a couple pieces with Cole. They chose "Lush Life" and "Close to You." James was brilliant, gently tickling away in the mood of the songs.

The evening was a great success. It was also a success musically the following week, when we returned to hear Calvin Keys, one the best guitarist alive (as our publisher like to put it). But the room was not as packed as Freddy Cole's show. Maybe that was becuase Calvin Keys performed on a Tuesday night and the Freddy Cole's show was on Friday. I surely hope that was the case, because Calvin Keys is another legend of our time. Just like Freddy Cole, Calvin Keys was presented by Robert Carmack with "A Congressional Lifetime Acheivment Award" from Congress Woman, Barbara Lee. Mr. Carmack was also our MC for this series of shows at the Plush Room.

article by Stella Cheung Houston, photos by Haybert and Stella Houston

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