Freddy Cole, a pianist and vocalist who spent a lot of his musical life within the shadow of his brother Nat King Cole, however whose sturdy abilities carried him by way of a triumphant late-career resurgence, died on Saturday in Atlanta. He was 88.
The trigger was issues of a cardiovascular situation, his supervisor, Suzi Reynolds, mentioned.
Mr. Cole leaned towards a extra explicitly bluesy model than his brother, who began out taking part in vigorous soar blues within the 1930s earlier than mellowing out his sound and turning into some of the widespread crooners of the 20th century. Freddy Cole sang in a plain-spoken method, all the time eye-to-eye along with his viewers, in a means that Nat — whose voice was floating, mythic, serene — by no means did. The title of Mr. Cole’s debut album, “Waiter, Ask the Man to Play the Blues” (1964), mirrored the smoky barroom aura of his music.
But there was no mistaking the affinity between their vocal kinds: heat and welcoming, each syllable enunciated with loving care and an internal glow. For Freddy, that resemblance proved a blessing and a curse.
As he aged, he embraced it — at the same time as his voice accrued a barely weather-beaten high quality that Nat, felled at 45 by lung most cancers, by no means had the possibility to develop. In Freddy’s case, the markings of age solely added to his magnificence and expressiveness. In a 1999 profile for The New York Instances, the critic David Hajdu referred to as him “one of many few male jazz singers lately who continues to be, at 67, on the top of his powers.”
Mr. Cole was nearing his 60th birthday by the point he lastly stepped ahead and firmly declared his musical independence. And when he did, it was with a wink.
In 1991, Sunnyside Data launched “I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me,” Mr. Cole’s first album to get widespread consideration. On the title monitor, a strutting second-person testimonial written firstly of his profession, he sings:
Properly, I’m right here to entertain you, in my very own particular means
And if I sound like Nat, properly, what can I say?
Now, I supply no apology,
As a result of I’m not my brother, I’m me.
However on the identical time, he included a medley of his brother’s songs, adopted by “He Was the King,” a young tribute. Backed by a guitarist and a bassist — the format of Nat’s famend trio — he sounded completely prepared to play ambassador and champion of his brother’s legacy.
With that album, he lastly struck a cushty stability: He made his disavowal part of the act.
“The case of Freddy Cole is exclusive in modern music,” Mr. Hajdu wrote, “as a result of his little-brother standing seems to be each his lifeline and a shackle.”
Lionel Frederick Coles was born in Chicago on Oct. 15, 1931. (Like his brother, he would lop off the final letter of his surname when he grew to become a performer.) He was the youngest of 5 youngsters, all of whom realized piano from their mom, Perlina Coles, and most of whom grew to become skilled musicians. Their father, the Rev. Edward Coles, often called E.J., was a Baptist minister.
Freddy Cole is survived by a daughter, Crystal Cole; a son, Lionel, an expert musician; and 4 grandchildren. His spouse of greater than 50 years, Margaret Jones, died in 2015.
Mr. Cole was an all-state athlete in highschool with desires of taking part in skilled soccer, however a hand damage derailed issues. “I couldn’t proceed taking part in soccer, so the subsequent smartest thing I might do was play the piano,” he mentioned in a brief 2006 documentary, “The Cole Nobody Knows,” which took its title from his 1977 album of the identical identify. “It got here out to be my blessing.”
He refocused on music, performing in Chicago nightclubs and enrolling within the Roosevelt Institute there to check music. Nat, who was 12 years older than Freddy, had already scored a number of No. 1 hits by the point his brother started taking part in professionally. Conscious of Freddy’s abilities, Nat inspired him to strive his luck on the New York scene. Freddy took his recommendation, enrolling at Juilliard.
Two years later, in 1953, he had a minor hit on Okeh Data, “Whispering Grass,” a dulcet pop recording that performed up his vocal resemblance to Nat. He started working recurrently because the pianist for main bandleaders just like the saxophonists Benny Golson and Sonny Stitt whereas finding out towards a grasp’s diploma on the New England Conservatory in Boston. He developed an in depth friendship with the vocalist Billy Eckstine, who grew to become his mentor.
Mr. Cole toured Europe within the mid-1960s and developed a small following there. In 1971, with the New York jazz scene sputtering, he moved to Atlanta, the place he continued performing and recorded intermittently.
After his brother’s demise in 1965, Mr. Cole resisted calls from promoters looking for to invoice him as a tribute act, and stored a comparatively low profile. For a time within the 1980s, he was playing six nights a week at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta; he self-released a couple of albums around that time on his own label, Dinky Records (which borrowed a nickname Nat had given him as a toddler).
But it was in his autumn and winter years that his star shone brightest. Beginning within the 1990s, he carried out usually at venues and festivals world wide and launched a string of well-received albums, totally on the Fantasy and HighNote labels. 4 had been nominated for Grammys in the very best jazz vocal album class, although he by no means received.
In these years he often carried out alongside Natalie Cole, Nat’s daughter, who had grow to be a star in her personal proper.
“How am I totally different than Nat? That’s so that you can resolve, however I really feel there’s a definite distinction,” Mr. Cole told The Los Angeles Times in 1995. “However I don’t fear about it. What I fear about is sounding good. I am going and play music and do the very best present I can do.”