George Cole Quintet
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George Cole Quintet

Berkeley, California, United States | SELF

Berkeley, California, United States | SELF
Band Jazz Acoustic


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George Cole Quintet @ Freight and Salvage

Berkeley, California, USA

Berkeley, California, USA

George Cole Quintet @ Pacifica Performances

Pacifica, California, USA

Pacifica, California, USA

George Cole Quintet @ Down Home Music

Richmond, California, USA

Richmond, California, USA

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All dressed up with some place to swing The George Cole Quintet plays Pacifica Performances

By Jean Bartlett for The San Jose Mercury News
January 19, 2010

Cozy, romantic, European style café music mixed with an American jazz that celebrates the feel of a New York 1930/40s' ballroom band with a croon — this is the sexy, savory splash of the music of George Cole. You hear Cole sing and you think, hey, this guy must have learned some tones from the gold baton of Mel Tormé. You hear him play his Selmer vintage guitar and it's dreamland all over with Les Paul or Django Reinhardt. The guitarist, vocalist and composer with the inherently familiar sophisticated swing is playing Saturday night at Pacifica Performances Mildred Owen Concert Hall. Members of The George Cole Quintet are: bandleader Cole on guitar and vocals, Julian Smedley on violin, Molly Mahoney on co-lead vocal, Jimmy Grant on rhythm guitar and Kenan O'Brien on standup bass. "We call our music Eurocana," said Cole. "We have some influence but we do all our own material." The Quintet's set list is a split of vocal jazz pop songs and instrumentals. All songs are by Cole. Tunes include "Riverside Drive," a metaphorical journey through George Gershwin's era (note: George and Ira Gershwin had adjoining New York penthouses at 33 Riverside Drive), "I Miss New York," a little bit like Dean Martin and Helen O'Connell and a pared down Jimmy Dorsey, "You Gotta Glow," a straight-up old-fashioned, kind-of Bobby Darin torch song, a tango, "El Baile de Amor" (Dance of Love) and "Ridin' To The Poorhouse In Style," a hot rhythm ride right past the pocketbook. Born at San Francisco General and raised in Richmond, Cole said he should write a song about the Richmond of his childhood. "I grew up in a town that doesn't really exist anymore," Cole lamented. "It was a thriving metropolis. It doesn't look the same." Cole started out on the accordion in kindergarten. "I used to watch (accordionist) Myron Floren on The Lawrence Welk television show," Cole said. "I was a fan! And those Welk musicians never looked at their fingers. They just looked out to their audience and smiled - and they were skilled. It's corny now but there is nothing dumbed-down about their music." Another very early music influence on little George Cole was guitarist, composer Django Reinhardt. "First time I heard Reinhardt's 'Blue Drag' was in a 'Mickey Mouse' cartoon." Cole received his first guitar, a classical guitar, between 6th and 7th grade. "My mom's background is Spanish and the family was heading off to a trip to Spain," Cole said. "I was glad to have the guitar when I went to Madrid, but still, I was a kid and I wanted an electric guitar as soon as possible."
Not long after, George had that guitar and an amp. "I remember standing in front of the mirror at 14 and thinking, I'm going to be a rock star!" Cole laughed. "I always liked music for its own sake, but when I played my first show at a church dance, I noted the girls were a little more interested in me than they had been the week before - all the more reason to want to do it for a living."
Cole said that secretly, he liked all his parents' music — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Keely Smith, Louis Prima and, recently, he has really come to admire the pipes of Vic Damone.
"Just this week I heard for the very first time a copy of Vic Damone singing 'Christmas in San Francisco.' It's a cheese fest with the lyrics, but the singing? Incredible!"
In high school, Cole studied with Bay Area guitar wizard Dan Boyd. Cole went on to study with legendary guitarist Jimmy Luttrell. Both teachers put him on his music path, a rather extraordinary path.
George was the lead guitarist for Big Blue Hearts (Geffen/Interscope Records), a Roy Orbison, Americana, alternative country kind-of band which was produced by T-Bone Burnett and which toured with Joe Walsh of the Eagles.
He recorded on Chris Isaak's platinum-selling "Forever Blue" Album. He has performed with folks like: Robert Cray, Boz Scaggs, Buster Poindexter and the late Warren Zevon. Also an educator, George was the long-time guitar teacher and mentor to Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt.
Cole played Carnegie Hall in 2008 and recently he got the call to play guitar in the band of his childhood idol, Keely Smith, hailed by Tony Bennett as one of the greatest jazz-pop singers of all time.
"She's still got the pipes," Cole admired.
While Cole had a whole other life early on as an electric guitarist, for some time he has done all of the stuff of a master shredder on his acoustic guitar. Techniques which include: alternate and double picking, hammer-ons, string skipping, sweep picking, slurred notes and trills. Both of his Selmer guitars have Reinhardt connections. The Selma 103 was Django's brother and the Selma 520 was left behind in a hotel by Django on a tour of Normandy.
Cole believes that in the '30s and '40s, U.S. artists and audiences were on the same page. "You think back, for instance, to Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall in 1938 or Artie Shaw. That music was a tonic and the crowds loved it."
"It is my belief that the Big Bands were the greatest, tightest bands that ever strode the face of the earth," Cole said. "But for everything to be so top notch, it's expensive - eventually too expensive. When record companies found out you could pay less and make a lot more money, it began the demise of the Big Band era."
The baritone said he's a huge "stupid" fan of Harry Connick Jr., ditto Sam Cooke. He thinks music by the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter and other real talents of that era will be on the same par as classical music a few years down the line.
"During the Depression, music performed or written by these greats brought people out," Cole said. "It was a respite from those financial times."
Cole said the musicians in his band have a simpatico — they get each other and have a love for the music they play and they value each and every member of their audience. They also dress up.
"If people are willing to pay their good money to see me, I'm going to wear a coat and a tie — and we are all going to have a blast."

- The San Jose Mercury News

Jan. 5, 2011
Hot, Sweet, and Unplugged
George Cole Quintet plays the Midcoast
By Dagney C. Ernest, Village Soup, The Hearld Gazette

January in Midcoast Maine can be many things, but akin to “a hot sultry evening in a Parisian nightclub in the 1940s” is not usually one of them. That promises to change on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 8 when the George Cole Quintet performs at the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education, 24 Lincoln St., Rockland. The concert will begin 7 p.m. The group is including Rockland in its Northeast tour, which will be highlighted with its first New York City appearances. George Cole himself has played Carnegie Hall, but his eponymous quintet is a relatively new entity. “We’ve become a precision flying team, which you really need for acoustic music,” he said a few days after Christmas in his San Francisco home. Acoustic is a relatively new genre for this musician who grew up in the rock ‘n’ roll era, played lead guitar for Bay Area bands Big Blue Hearts and Beatnik Beatch; toured with Joe Walsh; performed with Warren Zevon and Buster Poindexter; recorded with producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen and Paul McCartney); and played on Chris Isaak’s platinum-selling “Forever Blue” album. A longtime instructor as well as performer, Cole counts among his students Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of Green Day. But about six years ago, he sold all his electric guitars and amps. “I saw a gypsy jazz guitarist, sold it all and bought an old Selmer guitar,” he said. Making the switch to acoustic guitar was harder that Cole had thought it might be. “I thought, I’m a hot shot. I can play country and other styles. Well, it totally kicked my butt,” he said, likening the experience to a line from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s early weight-lifting days that “100 pounds will never give you a break.” In retrospect, Cole thinks electric guitar gives players a lot of breaks, whereas the acoustic really reveals a musician’s chops. He joked that maybe there should be an electric guitar license that could be pulled when “somebody commits mayhem on the guitar.” There is no mayhem to be found in a George Cole Quintet concert. Instead, a tight ensemble of talented musicians serves up tasty tunes and songs composed and arranged by Cole that take inspiration from both the hot swing acoustic jazz of Django Reinhardt and the crooners featured in Cole’s parents’ record collection. They call their sound “Eurocano jazz” and it is gaining fans of all ages around the country. “We did a Southwest tour in December, playing Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico. We had standing ovations and encores everywhere we went. We even got a standing ovation in a restaurant — not because we were leaving, but because people there had been to the concert,” he said. The tour is in support of the group’s first album, and a second one is due to be released in early spring. The George Cole Quintet performs Cole’s original music, although it may toss in a Reinhardt piece as an encore. The music focuses on Cole’s hot jazz guitar playing but as the musicians have toured, their hot swing sound has evolved. “It’s really morphed beyond the record,” said Cole, who credits the group’s lineup for their growing success and fan base. In addition to Cole on guitar and vocals, the quintet currently features Kenan O’Brien on standup bass, Julian Smedley on violin, Jimmy Grant on “le pompe” rhythm guitar and vo- calist Molly Mahoney. Cole said Smedley is probably the most accomplished musician in the group and “really brings us all up to a higher level.” Mahoney is a mezzo soprano freshly graduated from San Francisco’s Conservatory of Music. “She’s a fully trained opera singer who has been singing in her parents’ big band since she was 10,” said Cole, who added Mahoney has been teaching him how to take care of his voice on the road, a new approach for the seasoned musician. With Mahoney singing duets and solos, Cole said he has begun to write and arrange some tunes with her in mind. In fact, this line- up has proven so inspiring overall he is already writing numbers for a third album. “I’m always a year ahead of myself ... it drives my producer crazy,” he said. Audiences are proving to be crazy about the George Cole Quintet’s distinctive blend of acoustic string jazz with American Song-book-style songs written by Cole but reminiscent of the best of George Gershwin, Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter. He cites both Reinhardt and Bobby Darin as touchstones and his music reflects that. “All this music deserves to live, it’s all part of our American cultural heritage,” he said. He imparts some of that heritage to his Bay Area guitar students, some of whom have gone on to musical careers. He taught Green Day’s Armstrong for 10 years and Dirnt for a number of years too and said he was very proud of them. “I knew they were special and were hard-working musicians but never saw this thing, that they had that drive,” he said. Whatever direction the George Cole Quintet is heading, Cole said he thinks he will always teach and do workshops. He said he really enjoys interacting with the guitar aficionados who attend the concerts too. “This music really draws the guitar geeks out of the woodwork and I love that because I’m one too,” he said.

- Village Soup, The Hearld Gazette

January 13
Face the Music: Triple-header lineup: gypsy jazz, big band and bluegrass
Pitchers and catchers report one month from tomorrow.
What? Who said that? Surely not I. It must be the January frost on my brain. Nothing that a little Saturday-night gypsy jazz, big band, folk and bluegrass can't cure.
It's all courtesy of The George Cole Quintet, The Fogcutters Big Band and Ramblin' Red. You've got a three balls and no strikes count, and I'm giving you the green light.
The George Cole Quintet will be at One Longfellow Square with its latest CD, "Riverside Drive," in hand.
"I Miss New York" is a timeless Cole-penned original with perfect stand-up bass, wonderful clarinet, Molly Mahoney's throwback harmony vocals and Cole's ultra-stirring guitar work: "You can pack your bags, you can save your fare, there's no place like Manhattan and the lights of old Times Square." Sinatra himself would give this one a wink.
"Ridin' to the Poorhouse" is a lively duet that would fit in quite well in any number of musicals of the "Guys and Dolls" ilk. Armstrong and Fitzgerald could have also done wonders with it.
In fact, all of "Riverside Drive" is original music, save for "Roma Dance," written by James Luttrell. This is a scintillating instrumental foray into gypsy jazz enchantment by way of Tim Kliphuis' violin, Jack Fields' rhythm guitar, Joe Kyle Jr.'s bass and, of course, Cole's guitars.
The George Cole Quintet. 8 p.m. Saturday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland.
- Portland Press Herald

Art Thompson, Guitar Player Magazine
Cole’s new album is a swingin’ jazz fest that spotlights his fine Django-style guitar playing. The quintet’s instrumental and vocal arrangements are as tight and melodic as it gets, which makes for an enticing listening experience for anyone with an appreciation for the twangy guitar tones and Euro-centric harmonies of Gypsy jazz. Oceanview.
- Guitar Player Magazine

George Cole 
Riverside Drive
By Tom Chandler, East Bay Express, Dec. 15, 2010

George Cole is easy-breezy in the best possible way. As a singer and guitarist he explores the so-called "gypsy jazz" tradition, which is obviously very well-entrenched. But his song-writing and vocal delivery set him apart. He has a kind of nonchalance and relaxed attitude that will put even the most cynical at ease.
Riverside Drive is an album made entirely of original tunes, save one. Cole captures the essence of classic Thirties tunes but maintains a modern sensibility. That can be anything but easy, but darn it if he doesn't make it seem effortless. The rest of the band — Molly Maloney on vocals, Jim Rothermel on clarinet, Julian Smedley on violin, Jack Fields on rhythm guitar, plus special guests — inhabit the tunes fully, and their music swings hard. Thankfully, though, they don't hew too closely to the Django mold (which must be the forever challenge of people in this tradition). Nor do they seem concerned with faithfully recreating some kind of vintage aesthetic. The album shots of Cole don't have him in sepia tone with a rakishly tilted fedora. In interviews, he's confessed to loving pop music (and has graced albums by Chris Isaak among others), which comes through, weirdly, in this decidedly jazzy work.
I wouldn't say there aren't missteps here. I prefer Cole's vocals to Maloney's, who comes across a tad overwrought sometimes. "All I Want Is You" doesn't live up to the standards set by the title tune or "I Miss New York." It finds the band leaning toward Americana, which makes it easy in the EZ listening kind of way, not the good breezy way. But I'm not going to hold that over Cole's head. I'm too happy walking down the sunny side of the street. (Oceanview Records)
- East Bay Express


Riverside Drive (album)
George Cole Quintet
Ocean View Records
Released: 2011
Bill Cutler: Producer
George Cole: Vocals and Guitars

Samois Faire (album)
George Cole & Vive Le Jazz
Ocean View Records
Released: 2007
George Cole: Producer
George Cole: Vocals and Guitars

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

New Sirens of Song:
Sultry Singers Compilation
(Performed by Diana Krall, Norah
Sharper Image Records
Released: 2003
George Cole: Producer

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: Guitar

Forever Blue (album)
Chris Isaak
Release Date: May 23, 1995
Reprise Records
Peak Position:
The Billboard 200 #31 June 10, 1995
George Cole: Guitar

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



The George Cole Quintet’s superbly crafted and melodically sophisticated original music reminds us of the best of George
Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, and Cole Porter. The band’s highly
stylized approach, technical mastery and fast and furious guitar and violin playing is in the tradition of Django Reinhardt. It includes crooning vocals, a gift for comic gab and romantic duets with vocalist, Molly Mahoney.George's music suggests a hot sultry evening in a Parisian nightclub in the 1940's and the sophistication of master craftsman. The mix of high energy guitar playing, soaring violin flights by Julian Smedley, and propulsive "le pompe" rhythm guitar style creates a dynamic musical experience. George Cole has performed and sung duets with Keely Smith at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco. He has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and sold out shows at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. He dazzled audiences at a Grammy Artist’s Showcase. George Cole is a lead guitarist, vocalist, composer, and band leader. In addition to fronting his own quintet, he was lead guitarist for Bay Area bands Big Blue Hearts (Geffen/Interscope) and Beatnik Beatch (Atlantic). George has toured with Joe Walsh, performed with Warren Zevon and Buster Poindexter, and recorded with producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen and Paul McCartney). He played on Chris Isaak's platinum selling “Forever Blue” album. George has also been a guitar instructor to many young musicians including Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of Green Day, and won a California Music Award for Best New Major Label Artist.