Bay Area arts news, Dec. 12
He was a rocker, whose associates includedJoe Walsh and Chris Isaak and who taught Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong from a tender age. Then he went to hear Bireli Lagrene, the dazzling French Gypsy guitarist dubbed the heir apparent to his illustrious Romany predecessor, Django Reinhardt, atYoshi’s a decade ago.
“It had such an effect on me I couldn’t talk for a day and half. He was so good, and the music so fresh – to hear it live – I was left wondering and weeping,” Cole says. Equipoise regained, he immediately sold his electric guitars, amps and “gadgets” and purchased a 1934 Selmer D-hole steel string guitar of the sort master Reinhardt played in the originalHot Club of France with fiddler Stephane Grappelli (Wikipedia’s Selmer guitar entry has a photo of boyish Cole playing the instrument).
“I had a new purpose,” says Cole, 59, talking by handless cell the other morning while motoring to a rehearsal at the Petaluma home of the great mandolinist David Grisman, with whom Cole performs for the first time next month during the Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, which Cole directs. Turtle Island Quartet and Hot Club of Cowtown are also on the bill.
On Wednesday, Cole returns to Yoshi’s with his band for the second annual “Holiday for Swingers” show, serving up a mix of seasonal tunes by Vince Guaraldi and the MJQ, “White Christmas,” “The One That Got Away” and Edith Piaf‘s well-roasted French chestnut “La Vie en Rose.”
“They’re both aces. It’s a lot of firepower,” Cole says.
As a kid growing up in Richmond, Cole dreamed of playing in a Beatles-like pop band. Instead, he found himself playing the funky music of James Brown and the Ohio Players with his African American neighbors. He cut his teeth playing rock ‘n’ roll in honky-tonky joints like the Top Hat Club in Vallejo and Mi Piaci Pizza in Pinole.
“I’m a musical mongrel,” says Cole, who never expected to specialize in the music of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. “I always liked the music my parents listened to. Now I’m out of the closet about it.”
For more information, go to www.yoshis.com.