August 2001

Freddy Cole - Rio de Janeiro Blue
Telarc CD-83525
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on CD]For his first Telarc album, Freddy Cole, Nat’s younger (but no less talented) brother, had his musical compass pointed toward the world of the 1940s New York dinner club. That first album consisted mostly of standards (or originals written with those selfsame standards in mind), and was presented in the traditional style. For Rio de Janeiro Blue, Cole aimed a tad further south -- all the way down to Brazil, adding a touch of South American spice.

Cole still draws on that hoary old American songbook for inspiration. But to those old songs he has here added tunes by such noted South American musicians as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Cesar Portillo de la Luz, Alviro Carrillo, and Ebu Lobo, weaving a tapestry that strikes a familiar, and yet distinctively different, chord. And, as with his first effort for Telarc, Cole is surrounded by a bevy of topflight musicians from both north and south of the border -- Lou Marini on flute, Joe Beck on guitar, George Mraz on bass and Arturo O’Farrill on piano among others.

Cole's liner notes describe how he plans each song before recording it. He claims that it was after a trip to South America that he learned how to tell a story with each number he sings. So when he sings the line "Whenever the blues become my own song," he’s telling the literal truth, for each one of the songs recorded here sound as if they’re coming from someplace deep within him, as though he alone wrote the tunes.

As for the sound -- well, this is a Telarc DSD recording. Next to JVC’s XRCD, Sony’s DSD recording process as used by Telarc has created some of the most convincingly realistic sound we’re getting from Red Book CD today. All of the instruments are clearly defined. Cole’s vocals make you feel as though he is in the room singing to you alone. There is a depth to the sound that seems to draw you further into the music, and there’s real weight to it too, as evidenced by the intro to the song "Delirio." And take a listen to the blat of the trombone on "Invitation"; it has that live quality that music lovers are always looking for.

Even on this Brazilian-tinged album, Freddy Cole is a crooner, singing in the manner of his brother Nat, or say, Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra. If you’re a person who digs the old method of singing and wishes it was still in vogue, then you're going to fall for this album in a big way. Rio de Janeiro Blue offers great singing and superior sonics. Listening to this album will make you eager to find out in which direction Freddy Cole’s compass will point next.