Jazz great Freddy Cole, the younger brother of Nat “King” Cole who built his own reputation as a pianist and vocalist, died Saturday. The Atlanta resident was 88. (AJC file photo / Jason Getz)

Jazz great Freddy Cole dies at 88

Jazz great Freddy Cole, the younger brother of Nat “King” Cole who built his own reputation as a pianist and vocalist, died Saturday. He was 88.

The cause was complications from a cardiovascular ailment, his manager, Suzi Reynolds, told The Washington Post.

Freddy Cole, an Atlanta resident, long performed in the shadow of his famous brother – a towering figure in jazz and popular music. But he earned plaudits of his own – including Grammy nominations – during a decades-long career playing traditional jazz, swing and the blues. Most recently, he was nominated last year for best jazz vocal album for “My Mood Is You.”

“I love to play anywhere I can play,” Cole told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a 2014 interview.

Cole’s signature song – “I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me” – delighted audiences. But he told the AJC he was proud of Nat, and the brothers had a great relationship.

“My brother was a wonderful man,” he said. “He loved the music. He loved people and he would encourage anybody.”

Freddy Cole also had plenty of admirers.

“He’s always telling different stories with his songs,” friend and musician-composer Bill Charlap told the AJC in 2014. “The lyrics mean something. That is a very special Cole dynasty.”

Cole moved his family to Atlanta in 1971 from New York City. A Chicago native, he graduated from the Julliard School of Music. At one time, he had wanted to be professional football or baseball player, but a hand injury ended those dreams. He considered it a blessing.

“For a man who traveled the world and performed for thousands of people everywhere, he lived a great life,” Tracy Cole, his grandson, told the AJC Sunday. “He had fun.”

“He was always nice to everybody. He never had anything bad to say about anybody,” Tracy Cole recalled. “From other musicians, I heard he was their teacher.”

As a performer, Cole didn’t use playlists – choosing instead to gauge the energy of the audience.

“There’s no telling what I may play,” he told the AJC. “It might be a surprise to me.”

Read and sign the online guestbook for Freddy Cole

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