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A Swingin' Good Time with the George Cole Quintet

Venue: One Longfellow Square Portland, ME
~ January 15, 2011 ~

Mar 13, 2011
Kimmy Sophia Brown

Sophisticated, composed, well versed and rehearsed – that’s what I call the George Cole Quintet! On a cold night in January they delivered a peerless show at One Longfellow Square. Oh, you poor silly heads who stayed home, what were you thinking? Peter and I got to sit in the front row, right in the middle, only a couple of feet from George, who has an incredible set of fingers attached to the ends of his arms, that luxuriously traveled up and down the neck of his vintage Selmer guitar all evening with delightful dexterity and aplomb.

The Quintet played songs that were all written by George but they sounded familiar – sort of like old standards that you’ve never heard before. The lively “Eurocana” jazz style they play is similar to the uplifting style of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli, but I also heard traces of composers such as Michel Le Grande or Henry Mancini in the compositions. George’s lyrics were as inevitable as Johnny Mercer’s, and the entire show was a sunny balm for the winter blahs.

George Cole QuintetThey played most of the cuts from their new album, Riverside Drive, including the title track of the same name, “Valentino”, “You Got a Glow”, “Sheila’s Waltz”,  “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind”, “I’m Not the Wandering Kind”, “I Miss New York”, as well as songs from previous albums; “Lucky Day”, “The Crooner” and “The One that Got Away”. I’m listing them here because even though they may not be well known now, they probably will be. A few of the songs almost ventured into Dan Hick’s style of playful tunes and lyrics. I could imagine others being recorded by Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra if they had been written in their era.

Pretty, pretty, pretty vocalist, Molly Mary Mahoney, (is that a great name or what!?) sang with a delivery as cool as a strawberry smoothie; just enough ice and just enough color; and glossy as a well-groomed cat. Her body language was appealing and feminine and a lovely contrast to the good-looking, well dressed men of the band. Ms. Mahoney is also a mezzo-soprano and has performed roles such as the lead in her university’s production of Carmen. To me, her voice contained elements of jazz singers Marilyn Maye, Keely Smith and Julie London.

George Cole presented himself with easy, unassuming warmth, a pleasant baritone voice and indefatigable fingers that played like lightning and fire all evening. The other band members consisted of bassist Kenan O’Brien, who sported a Pancho Villa mustache and poker-faced expression, and boldly played bass like no other bassists have played before, or at least, he played excellently well. I would have liked to see more smiles though as he was very cute! Young and handsome Jimmy Grant aced on rhythm guitar and even alternated lead with George on a song while they sat side by side on high stools. The elegant, Julian Smedley, called affectionately by George the Great One or the Silver Fox, was incomparable on the violin. He did us in over and over again with his flawless execution of note and soul.

Prior to their tour in Maine, Cole performed in San Francisco with jazz great Keely Smith, who at eighty years old is still singing swing tunes. At one time George was guitar teacher to two members of the band, Green Day, and played guitar on the Chris Isaak album, Forever Blue, as well as New Sirens of Song: Sultry Singers (2003) – with Norah Jones, Diana Krall and Lavay Smith.

The George Cole Quintet was good enough to play with the best and it was a genuine treat to be in their midst. Check out their website at georgecole.net

(Note: Violinist Julian Smedley was not pictured in their press photo. We will update the photo as one becomes available)

For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at onelongfellowsquare.com.

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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