George Cole and his Quintet
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George Cole and his Quintet

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"New Testament of the Great American Songbook discovered in Berkeley, California attic"

I think that the best way to review the debut CD "Samois Faire" from George Cole's "The Hot Club," is to frame it with some fictitious scenery. Here we go....
It's a Parisian Summer evening in 1938 and a unusual confluence of Jazz forces has brought Django Reinhardt, Hoagy Carmichael, Dorothy Fields, George and Ira Gershwin, Noel Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter together in an elegant hotel room above the Champs Elysées. They all recognized one other in the lounge during the intermission at a Josephine Baker show. Later, they were all partying at Porter's posh room, when one of them suggested that they put their heads together to write a musical. Oiled by genius, dozens of packs of Galois, and a never ending supply of Gin, they brainstorm through the night on their idea. By 11 AM the next morning, most of the party had wandered off; Cole Porter and Noel Coward rushed out the door to catch a DC-3 to London, leaving the room vacant... except for a binder filled with twelve songs... and the housekeeper. The housekeeper cleans the room, and keeps the binder.
Almost 80 long years pass. A young American musician and songwriter purchased beautiful a house near Berkeley, California that had been occupied for decades by a elderly French lady. While most of the house had been cleaned and vacated, occasionally the young American would find a knick knack, or odd curio when fussing about odd, seldom used corners of the house. The curios, while not valuable, told the story of a young and poor French girl who lived in Paris during the Jazz Age. One day, while cleaning the attic, the young American found a old binder, filled with magic...
Okay, obviously what I've just written is fantasy. However, after listening to "Samois Faire," the tale seems mysteriously plausible. Here are the facts: Twelve of the songs on "Samois Faire" are penned by George Cole, or his mentor Jimmy Luttrell. One track is composed by virtuoso violinist and Hot Club alum, Julien Smedley. Eight tracks on the recording feature vocals. All of the lyrics were written by Cole. In one shot, on his debut CD, Cole has established himself to be possibly one of the most prolific composers and lyricists in Gypsy Jazz. This is however, more than a Gypsy Jazz CD; while some of the compositions, and certainly the instrumentation of the band (two guitars, two fiddles and a bass), give a respectful nod Django Reinhardt, the project when taken as a whole is an homage to all of the composers and writers I mentioned above, as well as all of the artists to come out of the Jazz Age.
All of the songs, while totally original compositions, have swingy hooks and catchy lyrics that makes them comfortable, memorable and instantly familiar. It's the musical equivalent of a new pair of Levi's stonewashed jeans: brand new, but they fit and wear like your old favorites. While ostensibly a swing album, the band competently delves into waltz and bossa rhythms that adds a welcome juxtaposition to the 4/4 chugging that characterizes Gypsy Jazz. The guitar and fiddle playing is good and fast enough to be of interest to harder core Django Reinhardt fanatics. The lyrics and vocals have a humorous, if sometimes sarcastic edge, that will appeal to all audiences.
The band is a virtual "dream team" ensemble cast. George Cole is on guitar and vocals. Cole, while fairly new on the Gypsy Jazz scene, has been a well known professional musician in California for over 20 years. Vic Wong, who heads up the group Anouman, pulls a double shift sharing the solo and rhythm duties in this band also. Wong's rhythm work is steady and in the pocket; his lead work bouncy, sweet and authentic. Violinist Julien Smedley, who played and recorded with Paul Mehling's "Hot Club brings his flawless and tasteful lines to this project. What makes this band unique is the fact the it has two violinists; Kathy Sierra, who is possibly best known for her work with the Celtic group "Golden Bough," and has played with notable musicians in that genre like mandolinist Lief Sorbye, not only plays violin, but sings also. In addition to her natural sense of swing, she has a great sense of humor and wit, and as such is an excellent parry for Cole. The musical interplay between Cole and Sierra is reminiscent of the best male/female vocal and comedy acts from the 30's and 40's (think George and Gracie, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Steve and Eydie or a swingy Sonny & Cher). Sam Bevan is featured on the CD cover as the bassist. However, Bevan's bass playing is present on only one track: Shiela's Waltz. Simon Planting, who is no stranger to Gypsy Jazz fans as the bassist for Fapy Lafertin, Robin Nolan, Renier Voet and Pigalle 44, lays down the law for most of the tracks on this recording. Hot Club leader, Paul Mehling, as well as Bassists Ari Munkres and Joe Kyle also make guest appearances.
There are some production and artistic choices that some may have executed differently, and on occasion, the vocal parts do not always come through strongly, but these things keep this CD "real," and I couldn't imagine it sounding any other way. This is an excellent CD, and a swingin' debut that Gypsy Jazz fans and lovers of the "Great American Songbook," will really appreciate.
So, Cole has established that he can compose songs and write lyrics, as well as assemble and ensemble of top shelf musicians to join him on his musical adventure. The band is tight, well rehearsed and spot on. What is great about this band is that they can also "pull it off" live, having performed to appreciative audiences at DjangoFest in 2005 and 2006. That's savoir-faire. - Djangology


"Hubby and K-gal go out on the town"

Hubby and K-gal go out on the town
November 22, 2009

So, tonight we went to see the George Cole Quintet at the Red Poppy Art House

OK, first of all, this is one, shall we say intimate performance space. I don't think there were more than 40 people in there. We were up close to the band, and it's not like they had a lot of room to stretch out.

I first saw George Cole about three years ago when we attended This Concert. I've been getting emails since then, but this was the first time that a gig happened in the right time and the right place, in this case, a fairly quick cab ride from my front door.

When I saw him then, it was with the Hot Club of Berkeley and now he has his own quintet. If you're a Django Rheinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli type, you'd totally love this. Also if you like uptempo jazz vocals reminiscent of Jackie and Roy? Again, this is up your alley.

George Cole makes me a little swoony with the guitar playing and self-deprecating charm and good looks. He writes most of the group's material and both his vocals and some of the writing are reminiscent of Matt Dennis, with a hint of Buddy Greco as well. The female vocalist, Molly Mahoney, was in hubby's words "a fox" and her singing has a purity of tone that reminded me of a young Doris Day or even some of Anita O'Day's big band vocals. The harmony in the duets was gorgeous.

I had been expecting a show of standards, but the only non-original in the show was an awesome rendition of Al Jolson's Avalon. (I know, normally when I talk about Avalon, it's NOT Al Jolson.) But I really loved all of George's originals. They each alluded to the older styles without directly copying anything. Since I can't get through the day without a Barrowman reference...any of these songs would be PERFECT for John's range and sense of humor.

Just an all-around fun performance. It really did feel like getting to see great jazz in someone's living room. They'll be back there on New Year's Eve playing two shows, and we're certainly considering it. If you're in the Bay Area (or anywhere else for that matter) and you get a chance to see George Cole you should definitely take it. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Hubby was so inspired, he's now sitting next to me in bed, attempting to play jazz standards on his mandolin. - Live Journal


Discography

Samois Faire album
The Hot Club
Ocean View Records
Released: 2007
George Cole: Producer, Executive Producer
George Cole: Vocals and Guitar

George Cole album
George Cole
Ocean View Records
Released: 2004
George Cole: Producer
George Cole: Guitars

New Sirens of Song:
Sultry Singers
Compilation
Sharper Image
Released: 2003
George Cole:
Produced Christie McCarthy Track
(Performend by Diana Krull, Lavay Smith, Norah Jones)

Everyday Real album
Christie McCarthy
Recline Records
Released: 2003
George Cole: Producer
George Cole: Electric, Acoustic and Baritone Guitars

A Ride Up The Mountain Where
Miracles Live album
Glassbrick Boulevard
Release Date: May 27, 2002
Glass Brick Boulevard Records
George Cole: Guitars

Egg (Over Easy) album
Lee Seung Hwan
Seoul Records
Release Date: Dec. 21, 2001
George Cole: Guitar

Steady Fready album
Fred Horn
Release Date: September 4, 1999
Rhombus Records
George Cole: Guitars

Forever Blue album
Chris Isaask
Release Date: May 23, 1995
Reprise
Peak Position:
The Billboard 200 #31 June 10, 1995
George Cole: Guitars

Slipaway album
Jerry Shelfer
Released: 1992
Heyday Records
George Cole: Guitars

Beatnik Beatch album
Beatnik Beatch
Atlantic Records
Released: 1986
George Cole: Guitars

At the Zula Pool album
Beatnik Beatch
Industrial Records
Released: 1986
George Cole: Guitars

Photos

Bio

Our original music is reminiscent of Les Paul and Mary Ford with a European Gypsy Jazz Django Reinhardt modern twist. We're a fun family friendly band that puts on a unique show with virtuosic music and solos. We're having an amazing music season right now performing at Guitar Player Live! 2009 Festival, Sonoma Jazz Festival, Bodega Bay Food and Wine Festival, Sausalito Music Festival, The Benicia Historical Museum, The Little Fox Theater, The Westside Theatre, The Starry Plough, The Westside Theater, Ashkenaz, The Red Poppy, selling out at The Freight and Salvage and Carnegie Hall.

We're a five piece original acoustic (Gypsy inspired) swing, jazz, americana, pop band with a male and female vocalist that sing duets, a violin or clarinet, a bass, two guitars. We play all original music inspired by Gypsy sounds, Americana rhythms, and Jazz hits from the Great American Songbook. George performed a sold out concert at Carnegie Hall last year and we were invited to perform at a Grammy's Showcase event.

George Cole has a long distinguished history as a performer and has a devoted following. He's toured with Joe Walsh of the Eagles, recorded with producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen and Paul McCartney). George was the lead guitarist for Big Blue Hearts (Geffen/Interscope Records) and Beatnik Beatch (Atlantic Records) who performed with Ringo Starr and many others. He recorded on Chris Isaak's platinum selling Forever Blue Album and Lee Seung Hwan's multi-million selling Korean pop smash. He has performed with Warren Zevon and Buster Poindexter. George has VH1 videos online. George was guitar instructor and mentor to Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of Green Day for ten years. George has performed on Grammy nominated releases and won a California Music Award for Best New Major Label Artist.