Holly Cole (born November 25, 1963 in Halifax, Nova Scotia) is a Canadian jazz singer, particularly popular in Canada and Japan for both her versatile and distinctive voice, along with her adventurous repertoire, which spans such divergent genres as show tunes, rock, and country music.
Holly Cole Trio:
In 1983, Cole travelled to Toronto to seek a musical career. In 1986, she founded a trio with bassist David Piltch and pianist Aaron Davis. Offered a record deal in 1989, the Holly Cole Trio released an EP, Christmas Blues, that year, which featured a version of The Pretenders' "2,000 Miles." This was followed by their first full album, Girl Talk, in 1990.
A succession of releases followed through the early 1990s. For example, 1991's Blame It On My Youth, covered songs by Tom Waits ("Purple Avenue," aka "Empty Pockets"), Lyle Lovett ("God Will"), includes show tunes such as "If I Were a Bell" (from Guys and Dolls) and "On the Street Where You Live" (from My Fair Lady), and even remakes "Trust In Me," from Disney's The Jungle Book, into a strikingly sultry and sinister song of seduction and death. Also recorded in this period was a reinterpretation of Elvis Costello's "Alison."
In 1993, the trio released Don't Smoke In Bed, an album produced by David Was, which included a hit single cover version of "I Can See Clearly Now". According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, "The video for the song was put into heavy rotation on MuchMusic and earned a Juno Award nomination for Best Video. The album went platinum in Canada, reached No. 7 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart, and won a Juno Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, in 1994.
Following Don't Smoke In Bed, the trio released a CD entirely of songs by Tom Waits, called Temptation. This 1995 release also dropped the "Trio" from the label.
Cole followed with two albums, Dark Dear Heart (1997) and Romantically Helpless (2000), which veered further from jazz by introducing pop elements to Cole's sound.
In 2001, she returned to the Christmas jazz roots of her first CD with Baby It's Cold Outside, which included "Christmas Time is Here" (from A Charlie Brown Christmas), "Santa Baby", and the title track. Swapping cold for hot, she moved to a summer theme in 2003's Shade, this time reinterpreting Cole Porter ("Too Darn Hot"), Irving Berlin ("Heatwave"), and The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson ("God Only Knows").
Cole's album, Holly Cole (originally entitled This House Is Haunted) was released in Canada in March 2007. It was released in the US in January 2008 and was followed by a US tour.
Cole tours frequently, particularly around the holiday season, in Canada. She was also a part of the 1998 Lilith Fair tour, and her song "Onion Girl" was included on that year's live compilation album.
In 2010, Holly contributed a track for the World Jazz For Haiti charity album, recorded at Number 9 Audio Group in support of the Red Cross disaster relief fund. The album featured Canadian artists such as John McDermott, David Clayton-Thomas and George Koller.
Holly Cole's first ever live DVD + CD titled "Steal The Night: Live At The Glenn Gould Studio" was released in Canada in February 2012. It was recorded live at Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on August 11, 2011. The performance marks the reformation of the original Holly Cole Trio lineup with Aaron Davis on piano and bassist David Piltch, in addition to John Johnson (horns), Rob Piltch (guitars) and Davide DiRenzo (drums).
Holly Cole's new studio album Night was released in late 2012 on Universal Music Canada. It is her first studio album in over 5 years. The album, produced by Holly Cole and Greg Cohen, covers songs from Tom Waits ("Walk Away"), Gordon Lightfoot ("If You Could Read My Mind"), Mort Shuman ("Viva Las Vegas"), Captain Beefheart ("Love Lies"), a James Bond theme by John Barry ("You Only Live Twice"), and a Holly Cole original ("You've Got a Secret"). Holly Cole will tour in support of Night in 2012-13 to Canada, America, Germany and Japan.
Cole received an honorary degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario in June 2014.
Photo by Guy MacPherson