LIONEL FREDERICK COLE was born on October 15, 1931, the youngest of Edward and Paulina Nancy Cole's five children. His three elder brothers, Eddie, Ike and Nat (twelve years Freddy's senior) were all musicians. "I started playing piano at five or six," Freddy remembers. "Music was all around me." Visitors to his family's home in Chicago included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton.
As a teenager, after a possible career with the NFL was shelved due to a hand injury, Cole began playing and singing in Chicago clubs. At age 18, he continued his musical education at the Roosevelt Institute in Chicago. Freddy moved to New York in 1951, where he studied at the Juillard School and found himself profoundly influenced by John Lewis, Oscar Peterson, and Teddy Wilson. He went on to earn a master's degree at the New England Conservatory of Music and then spent several months on the road as a member of an Earl Bostic band that also included Johnny Coles and Benny Golson.
Back in New York, Freddy developed a vast repertoire of songs performing in Manhattan bistros while also recording television and radio commercial jingles, successfully laying the groundwork for a career that continues to flourish to this day.
A resident of Atlanta since 1972, Cole currently leads a trio comprising guitarist Jerry Byrd, drummer Curtis Boyd, and bassist Zachery Pride that regularly tours the U.S., Europe, the Far East, and South America.
Freddy has been a recording artist since 1952, when his first single, "The Joke's on Me," was released on an obscure Chicago-based label. Freddy recorded several albums for European and English companies during the 1970s and developed a loyal overseas following.
Cole doesn't apologize for sounding like his brother, Nat "King" Cole. There are certain unmistakable similarities. He plays piano and sings and performs live with guitar and upright bass, just like Nat. Yet his voice is raspier, smokier, jazzier even. But he has emerged from the awesome shadow cast by his elder brother, with suave, elegant, formidable, and articulate vocals that are among the most respected in jazz. Cole's career continues to ascend as he's moved into the front ranks of America's homegrown art form with a style and musical sophistication all his own.