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Hilary Kole: Versatile, Sweet and Jazzy

By Published: September 14, 2010
One of the productions was at Birdland, which is where she met Valenti and eventually started her solo career. But with Comstock, Gines—and prodding from Valenti—she also co-wrote a show on songs made popular by Fred Astaire. "We started doing research, and we realized Fred Astaire kind of handpicked the American songbook. It was Astaire who did the original versions of a lot of these songs, and then Frank Sinatra took them—'Night and Day' or 'A Foggy Day'— and made them into the hits that we know them as. But Fred Astaire was really an important figure. That ran for about two years. I was great to collaborate again. I love singing with other singers. It's a wonderful thing to be able to do that.

The Sinatra show is doing a revival through September 11, 2010, at the Algonquin in New York City.

Both shows did not involved original music. Kole did the vocal arrangements on standard tunes. Comstock did the piano arrangements. The trio collaborated on the script and putting the musical revue together.

Kole's solo career started at Birdland after the Astaire run. "I did a show on Marilyn and Allan Bergman lyrics and songs. From there I decided the theme thing for me was always interesting, but I really wanted to sing the songs that I loved," she says. "I started putting shows together. That's where I met John Pizzarelli, who also plays the room. He said, 'You need to put a record out.' I said, 'I'm looking for a producer.' He said, 'I'll produce it.' That's how that happened."

Using her compositional background, Kole came up with arrangements on songs for her debut release. ."What I did with Haunted Heart, and what I will do with all of my projects—the next project as well—is that I do all of the arrangements. That's where I can express myself compositionally. The title track, 'Haunted Heart,' was my original arrangement. I'm going to expand for the next record. It's going to be more horns and some strings and stuff like that. It's very important to me to express that part of me, musically."

While she may occasionally get involved in other singing projects, also important to her is jazz music, her associations with jazz musicians, and performing with that kind of freedom in jazz clubs.

"I love the challenge of it," she says with confidence. "Sometimes when people like to pigeonhole a singer, that's really tough. Because once lyric is involved, everything changes. To me, it's the music and the lyric that tells me where to go. That's the most important thing. A singer like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett or any of the great singers—even Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, I think they would say the same thing. Sarah Vaughan was famous for saying, 'Don't call me a jazz singer. A jazz singer means I play in the basement.' If she doesn't want to be called a jazz singer, then I can be OK not being called a jazz singer.

"The thing I love about the jazz clubs, especially in New York City, is that it's a really intimate setting. People are right there and they can see how the music works, so to speak. That's a nice thing. I love playing pops concerts. I do that all the time too. And the big string orchestras are wonderful. But there's something very special about going into a club, especially one with a historical significance, and have people come there. You're all in it together. I love that."

In that regard, like all good jazz musicians, Kole feels she is continually learning and growing. It's an attitude that will serve this talented vocalist well.

"What was so wonderful talking to Hank Jones is that he was still learning. He still wanted to make the better take and to do better. He said this to me, 'When you stop wanting to do that, then stop playing.' That's why, I think, this music lives on. Because we're always searching for that better chord or that better note or that better interpretation. It's different every time. It's a constant challenge and it's special. That makes it so fun for me."

And fun for us.

Selected Discography

Hilary Kole, You Are There (Justin Time Records, 2010)

Hilary Kole, Haunted Heart (Justin Time Records, 2009)

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Hilary Kole

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