Jazz preview: Pianist Freddy Cole ready for test here

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Pianist-vocalist Freddy Cole believes that Saturday's concerts at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Concert Hall for its annual Christmas show will represent "a good test" of his musicianship.

He won't know just what he's going to play until earlier that day because he's working with the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra; the repertoire depends on what charts are being arranged for him.

"I'm glad they let me back" to Pittsburgh, Mr. Cole says. "I played [at the Guild] once before. You can expect to hear good music."

Freddy Cole
Where: Manchester Craftsmen's Guild.
When: 7 (sold out) and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $45, wwwmcgjazz.org, 412-322-0800.

Known as the brother of the late Nat King Cole but quite the prolific artist in his own right, Mr. Cole, a 40-year resident of Atlanta, has released an album every year on average for the past 20. His latest, "This and That," came out earlier this year.

"I owe a lot of people," Mr. Cole chuckles. "I do need [the money]."

The 81-year-old Chicago native grew up an avid athlete, playing football, basketball, baseball and "any kind of ball," and remains an avid sports fan. He considered professional football but injured a hand.

Music has always come first, he says.

Mr. Cole, who has degrees from Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music, originally spent several months on the road as a member of an Earl Bostic band that also included Johnny Coles and Benny Golson, but he eventually settled back in New York.

As far as his influences: "I would just say all of them," he says.

"You get this and that from different people and I hope I can leave something for somebody else."

Mr. Cole's regular working group also comprises guitarist Randy Napoleon, drummer Curtis Boyd and bassist Elias Bailey, but they won't be performing with him here in Pittsburgh.

No matter. Mr. Cole deeply respects the level of talent that has come out of, and even remains, in Pittsburgh. Especially the PJO.

"Music is not defined for one area," Mr. Cole says. "If you can play, you can play anywhere."

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