Comprised of Jimmy Grant (he brings the power, Cole says), Chris Bastian (connectivity), Stephan Dudash (virtuosity), Mary Jenson (melody) and Cole (I bring the flash, he laughs), the five musicians focus on a sound that Cole has developed - one that hes dubbed Eurocana.
Eurocana music is an amalgamation of French jazz, classical music, Gypsy music, and our own music here in the States, Cole explains, on the American side is of course jazz, and by jazz I mean primarily swing.
All the members of the Quintet, Cole says, love and respect what is now called the Great American Songbook, which he calls our countrys classical music: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Louis Prima, Mel Torme et al - but they perform their own originals, which carry the faint, pleasantly fragrant coatroom scent of old standards that you somehow missed along the way.
People tell me at our concerts that they are grateful that we are bringing this kind of music back, Cole says, I always thank them for the compliment, but I also enjoy telling them that as far as Im concerned, it never went anywhere.
PORTER TO GAGA
The Eurocana sound, Cole further explains, can be summarized in two words: beauty and elegance, he says. But let it not be said that his form of popular music is far removed from todays radio pop; he points out that the two genres share the same sensibilities.
Most of my work adheres closely to the rules of composition as per the Great American songbook, he explains, I love the idea that the structure and form and the rules of composition are the same for me as they are for Sting, Carole King or George Gershwin.
Having a four-minute canvas is not a bad thing, Cole continues, for me, it is the ultimate challenge to be concise and to the point. Billy Joel, Cole Porter, and yes, Lady Gaga follow the rules of form in popular song, as do my five-year-old sons favorites Justin Beiber and Rebecca Black, he chuckles.
I love the idea of a composer working alone in their room, and then a year and a half later, the whole world knows the song they wrote and can sing along with it. Having said that, we do have some waltzes and face melting instrumentals that are in an expanded form - I do have a bit of the renegade in me.
In his well-cut suit and handmade guitar, with his bandmates similarly attired in a natty style, the renegade Cole, who along with his group is promoting the bands new CD, Riverside Drive, is a stylish retro presence onstage, while the songs take on a brightened life that belies their old-school roots.
Coles songwriting was first inspired by pioneering jazz/gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt - but took on a twist and a flourish motivated by his own life.
Id always loved the music of Reinhardt since I heard his music as a child, Cole explains, and now that I have made a couple of records, I have the additional joy of having great people in my band and sharing our music with the world. Ive been through a good cross-section of Bay Area musicians over the last few years, but am (now) happy to have a stable unit that I also count as friends.
Cole and his quintet of friends will be performing at - coincidentally - a quintet of Northern Michigan gigs over the next few weeks. So what can audiences expect at a George Cole Quintet show?
It would not be a George Cole Quintet show without some wild guitar and violin shredding, Cole laughs, my best friend gave me the best advice I ever got - no flash, no cash. Words to build a career on, no?
The George Cole Quintet will be performing on August 7 at the Elk Rapids Cinema; August 10 at The Cabbage Shed in Elberta; on August 11 at InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City; for the Charlevoix Area Hospital Benefit Symphony on the Green on August 12; and on August 13 as part of the Black Cat Concerts series in Charlevoix.