The Great American Songbook repertoire is what many argue to be the pinnacle of American popular music and one of this country’s greatest cultural contributions to the world. Dating back to the 1920s and created by such luminary composers and lyricists as Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer among others, this timeless body of work has enchanted music enthusiasts for decades. These gems from Tin Pan Alley, the silver screen and Broadway have become the stuff that stars are made of. In the hands of the right artist this classic material has the ability to take on new life.
Celebrated Canadian vocalist Holly Cole, who has stretched the boundaries of what a jazz singer can sing, illustrates this transformative ability on her 17th recording as a leader and Shanachie Entertainment debut, Holly. “The high quality songwriting from the classic American songbook and the timeless themes were crafted for interpretation,” says Holly. “This perfect combination enables me to explore subtext and make a very personal individual statement with each and every song.”
The epiphany for Holly Cole to record Holly evolved from a deeply personal experience centered around her mother falling ill. The singer decided to take off a few years from music so that she could take care of her mother in Toronto. This decision, which ultimately became life-changing. Upon her mother’s suggestion to embark on studying something new during this hiatus, the vocalist decided to study hypnotism, which eventually led her to her studies on Neuro-Linguistic Psychology. Sadly, Holly’s mother passed during the recording of the album but Holly clung to her mother’s advice to keep reaching for something new. In her search, Holly ended up buying an old barrel factory from 1845 on the coast of Nova Scotia. “Restoring this old building is a beautiful project for me and incredibly creative too,” confides the singer who influences include such diverse artists as Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Anita O’Day, Ricky Lee Jones, Betty Carter and Tammy Wynette. “The concept aesthetically is old meets new. I want to retain a lot of the historic integrity. It is thought-provoking and beautiful. At the same time I also want to add more contemporary elements that contrast in an aesthetically pleasing but also intriguing way. I was a year into the renovation before it dawned on me that that’s exactly what I do with music.”
Holly Cole teamed up with Grammy winning producer Russ Tielman (Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, etc.) and confesses to being a long time fan. This is the first album in which she did not wear the hat of producer. Holly features her long-time trio-mates, pianist Aaron Davis, bassist David Pitch and drummer David DiRenzo. Recorded in both Toronto and New York, Holly features Cole in various configurations with musicians she is playing with for the first time, including pianist/organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Ed Cherry, bassist Ben Street and drummer Justin Faulkner.
Holly who was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and based in Toronto says, “Along with being musicians with enormous integrity all of the musicians deeply understood my musical aesthetic. That’s priceless.” Holly Cole has been dazzling audiences with her flawless, earthy and rich vocals, impeccable taste and dynamic showmanship since she emerged on the scene over three decades ago. Hollyis a wonderful introduction for those who somehow are just discovering this incredible talent and will be a cherished gift to those who are already converts. Holly Cole and her all-star ensemble manage to reinvent some of the most well-known and beloved classics and interpret them in a new and exciting way that embodies her personality and sublime artistry.
“Capturing the spark of musicians connecting with one another and discovering the essence of the song while recording is rare and fantastic,” shares Holly. “I became a singer because I wanted to perform live. One of the things that I am most proud of is the fact that I believe much of the essence of my live performance has been captured on Holly.”