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Isaac Cole: 1927-2001
Isaac Cole
Singer, piano

Born: July 13, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois
Died: April 22, 2001 in Chandler, Arizona

Out From The Shadow of Nat

Copyright © 2001 

The Scotsman, 2001


Isaac “Ike” Cole always performed in the shadow of his famous brother, the late Nat King Cole, but he was a resourceful singer and pianist in his own right. The identification with his more famous sibling almost led him to change his name at one point, but he said that he was dissuaded from doing so by Nat himself.

The Cole family was a very musical one, and another brother, Freddy Cole, has also made a successful career as a jazz singer. All three brothers had similar-sounding voices, and Ike and Freddy combined to tour with a tribute to Nat on the 25th anniversary of his death in 1990.

Ike Cole played the bass drum in a military band while serving in the army, then switched to piano before forming his own jazz trio in Chicago in 1957. His style was undeniably similar to Nat’s, both vocally and at the piano, but although he often included medley’s of his brother’s hits in his programmes, his repertoire in general was more oriented to classic jazz standards.

The trio achieved a great deal of success, appearing on television with artists like Andy Williams, Dean Martin and Red Skelton, and touring widely, both in American and further afield, including Europe, Japan, and Australia. He had a long residence at the Pump Room in Chicago, and performed regularly in Las Vegas, where his skills as an all-round entertainer kept him in demand.

He denied that he had ever consciously attempted to copy Nat’s style, but acknowledged the similarity in the work of all three brothers, putting it down to a family trait. As well as touring with Freddy in We Remember Nat -- A Salute to Our Brother in 1990, Ike also played piano when his niece, Nat’s daughter Natalie Cole, recorded her best-selling album of her late father’s songs, Unforgettable With Love, in 1991.

He eventually settled in Arizona, where he died of cancer. He is survived by his brother, Freddy, who is still performing; his wife, Margie; and three sons Larry, Jimmy and Eddie.

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