Known as a forward-thinking musician with a passion for the jazz tradition, guitarist Randy Napoleon tours with the legendary singer/pianist Freddy Cole and leads his own trios, quartet, and three-horn sextet.
FREDDY COLE, piano
Lionel Frederick Cole was born the youngest of Edward and Paulina Nancy Cole’s five children. His three elder brothers, Eddie, Ike and Nat (twelve years Freddy’s senior) were all musicians taught by their mother. Though Freddy was born in Chicago, he is now a 35-year native son and international celebrity of Atlanta.
Freddy moved to New York in 1951, where he studied at the Juilliard School of Music and found himself profoundly influenced by John Lewis, Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson. He got a Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music and then spent several months on the road as a member of Earl Bostic’s band that also included Johnny Coles and Benny Golson. It was back in New York that Freddy successfully laid the groundwork for a career that continues to flourish to this day. He developed a vast repertoire of songs in Manhattan bistros and concurrently began to supplement his live performances with television and radio commercial work.
Freddy recorded several albums for European and English companies during the 1970s that helped him develop a loyal overseas following. Cole believes that becoming an international favorite made him “widen my scope a little bit.” He developed a stand-up act, a better rapport with audiences, and learned to sing in other languages. “It made me much more a performer.” A resident of Atlanta since 1972, he currently leads a quartet on piano and vocals with guitarist Randy Napoleon, bassist Elias Bailey, and drummer Quentin Baxter, that regularly tours the US, Europe, the Far East, South America and South Africa. Freddy has been a recording artist since 1952, when his first single, “The Joke’s on Me,” was released on an obscure Chicago-based label.
While there are certain unmistakable similarities in timbre to his brother Nat, his voice is raspier, smokier, jazzier even. In truth, his phrasing is far closer to that of Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday than that of his brother, and his timing swings even more. His vocals – suave, elegant, formidable, sometimes spoken and articulate – make him the most respected lyrical storyteller in jazz. Cole’s career continues to ascend as he has moved into the front ranks of America’s homegrown art form with a style and musical sophistication all his own.
RANDY NAPOLEON, guitar
Napoleon is a composer and an arranger for singers, big bands, and small combos. He arranged as well as performed on Cole’s 2010 Grammy-nominated release from High Note, Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B. He is the guitarist on Cole’s Live at Dizzy’s Club: The Dreamer in Me, Talk to Me, This and That, and Freddy Cole Sings The Blues. He has performed with artists across the jazz spectrum such as Bill Charlap, Natalie Cole, Monty Alexander, Houston Person, Rodney Whitaker, Melissa Morgan, Aaron Diehl, Josh Brown, Dmitry Baevsky, Jared Gold, Etienne Charles, Mike Dease, Sara Gazarek, Brianna Thomas, Bootsie Barnes, Mike Karn, Eric Comstock. Will and Pete Anderson, and Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.
Prior to joining Freddy Cole, Napoleon toured with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and appears on the recording, The Clayton Hamilton Orchestra: Live at MCG. He has toured extensively with Benny Green and crooner Michael Buble. Napoleon is featured on Buble’s Grammy-nominated CD Caught in the Act. Napoleon has performed on The Tonight Show, Late Night With David Letterman, The View, The Today Show, and The Ellen DeGeneres show as well as TV shows in South America, Europe and Asia. Napoleon has played or arranged on over seventy records.
Guitarist George Benson calls Napoleon “sensational.” Detroit Free Press critic Mark Stryker says Napoleon “plays with a gentle, purring tone that makes you lean in close to hear its range of color and articulation.” Washington Post critic Mike Joyce praises his “exceptionally nimble finger-style technique.” Comparing him to Wes Montgomery, music critic Michael G. Nastos says, “he displays an even balance of swing, soul, and single-line or chord elements that mark an emerging voice dedicated to tradition and universally accessible jazz values.” Napoleon has four records out as a leader, including his newest release - Soon. Soon features Napoleon in the classic guitar trio format with bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Also featured on the album are two duets with trumpeter Etienne Charles.