by Alix Cohen


Blessed with a new baby daughter, Hilary Kole has not been performing much lately. It’s, therefore, a double treat to be among devotees assembled at Iridium Monday night. A professional since adolescence, Kole is about as polished as they come without losing a whit of warmth. Her vocal range and control remain astonishing. If anything the lady’s instrument- and make no mistake, she has an instrument, is riper and more appealing.


With Adam Birnbaum on piano, Paul Gil-Bass, and Aaron Kimmel-Drums, Kole offers a rich program of favorite selections out of her “trunk” from Irving Berlin’s “Haunted Heart,” recorded by her at the tender age of 12, to an infectiously jubilant “Get Happy” (Harold Arlen/ Ted Koehler) and, as an encore, a radiant “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen/ E.Y. Harburg), both featured on the most recent CD, Hilary Kole: The Judy Garland Project.


“Look For the Silver Lining” (Jerome Kern/B.G. DeSylva) begins a capella with only syncopated brushes. Lyrics ripple out. Scat is round-edged. Eyes closed, nose wrinkled, Kole virtually plays her mike stand with the fingers of one hand. Richard Rodgers/ Lorenz Hart’s “There’s a Small Hotel” is bright and bouncy. Scat arrives a whirligig of horn-like interpretation, switch backs and octave shifts seamless. The vocalist sways lightly patting her hip. Birnbaum capers across piano keys like a playground.


Among several original, surprising arrangements are that of “Come Back To Me” (Alan Jay Lerner/Burton Lane from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.) This version eschews its usual Broadway brass for a seductive, Tangiers-like snake charm. Kole steps back and forth with gently swaying hips as if conjuring. Her vocal stretches, flexes, and coils. It’s under-your-skin hypnotic.


Equally haunting in a very different way is Irving Berlin’s 1923 “What’ll I Do?” Hand at one point on her heart, Kole laments, sincerely asking the question. Verse follows chorus with a slight, fine grained sob. No wispy refrain, it penetrates like romantic fear. Birnbaum’s piano tiptoes, separately reflecting. The band is all mood. “It’s a waltz with an extra beat for sadness,” the artist comments.


Love to me is like a summer day/Silent because there’s just so much to say…(“Summer Song”- Iola Brubeck/Dave Brubeck) is toes-in-the-water languid. Brubeck recorded with Kole on her Duets CD. She tells us the charming story of their mutually nervous Florida meeting. On November 6, the performer will appear in The (Dave) Brubeck Songbook with The Brubeck Brothers Band at NJPAC.


Cole Porter is represented by “It’s Alright With Me” (trickily introduced by the vamp from Istanbul Not Constantinople –Jimmy Kennedy/Nat Simon) in which scat darts like an inebriated humming bird and “Every Time We Say Goodbye” in silk/satin rendition dedicated to her husband Chad, front and center. Kole also offers evocative renditions of “Blackberry Winter” (Edith Lindeman/ Carl Stutz) and “Don’t Ever Leave Me” (Oscar Hammerstein II/Jerome Kern) accompanying herself on piano and, declaring she knows no lyrics, improvises verse and scat for a requested blues number with the pith, purpose, and wail of a secular hymn.


Hilary Kole is enticing, generous, and game. Accomplished vocals saturate and please.

An unquestioned virtuoso, she sets the performance bar high and leaps over like a gazelle.



Photos by Nelson G. Onofre


Hilary Kole

Adam Birnbaum-Piano, Paul Gil-Bass, Aaron Kimmel-Drums

Iridium Jazz Club   1650 Broadway

October 10, 2016

Hilary’s Web Site: http://hilarykole.com/

Venue Calendar: http://theiridium.com/