Lionel Frederick Cole plays piano and sings, and performs live with guitar and upright bass, just like his brother, Nat “King” Cole. But with his raspier, smokier voice, he has distinguished himself from his older sibling. His vocals - suave, elegant, formidable, and articulate - are among the most respected in jazz. An Atlanta resident, Cole leads a trio including guitarist Randy Napoleon, drummer Curtis Boyd and bassist Elias Bailey.
Early influences in Cole’s youth included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Billy Eckstine. He began performing in Chicago clubs as a teenager, continuing his musical education at the Roosevelt Institute in Chicago. Cole moved to New York in 1951, and studied at the Juilliard School of Music. He found himself profoundly influenced by John Lewis, Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson. Cole’s first single, “The Joke’s on Me,” was released in 1952 on an obscure Chicago-based label.
Cole earned his Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music and then spent time in an Earl Bostic band that included Johnny Coles and Benny Golson. Performing in Manhattan bistros, Cole developed a vast repertoire of songs, supplementing his live performances with television and radio commercial jingle work.
During the 1970’s, Cole recorded numerous albums for European and English companies that developed a loyal overseas following. With his trio, he continues to regularly tour the US, Europe, the Far East and South America.