Cole was in the vanguard of a resurgence of female jazz singers who interpreted contemporary pop songs. Her recordings after 1995 were more firmly in the pop vein, with songs composed by Sheryl Crow, Randy Newman and Paul Simon.
Holly Cole maintained a long relationship with Toronto's Alert Music, which licensed many of her recordings to other companies for international distribution. In 1989 Cole's trio released an EP, Christmas Blues, and quickly followed it with her first full-length release, Girl Talk, which was re-released internationally in 1994.
In 1991 Cole signed her first major distribution deal with the seminal jazz label Blue Note Records and released Blame It on My Youth, from which her first Japanese hit was taken. Don't Smoke in Bed from 1993 followed a similar formula and yielded another strong single, a languid remake of Jamaican singer Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now." In 1995 she varied her approach, adding more than a dozen musicians to her trio for Temptation, an album of songs by Tom Waits. That year she also recorded a single, Oscar Brown Jr's "Hum Drum Blues," for a Blue Note compilation with a number of first-rate jazz players, including pianist Mulgrew Miller, saxophonist Javon Jackson and drummer Bill Stewart, which indicated the label's efforts to legitimize her as a jazz artist.
Dark Dear Heart in 1997 found her moving more deeply into pop music. Produced by Joni Mitchell's frequent collaborator Larry Klein, the album produced a hit cover of The Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face." Romantically Helpless (EMI) in 2000 mixed contemporary songs with classics like Sammy Cahn's and Jimmy van Heusen's "Come Fly with Me" and extended Cole's band to include guitarist Kevin Breit and bassist George Koller. Baby It's Cold Outside (2001, Alert) presented a set of Christmas music, while her 2003 release, Shade (Alert), focused on heat-related songs like Irving Berlin's "Heatwave" and Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot." In 2004, Alert packaged 14 Cole performances in The Holly Cole Collection Vol 1.
Holly Cole toured widely after her first international recording releases in the early 1990s. In Canada, she established a pattern of extensive tours during the winter holiday season, frequently culminating with large-scale Christmas concerts in Toronto and a New Year's Eve gala at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. In 2004, her annual holiday trek included a touring symphony orchestra.
In 1993, Holly Cole won Japan's Grand Prix Gold Disk Award for best new artist and best jazz recording. She won Juno Awards for contemporary jazz album (Don't Smoke in Bed) in 1994 and vocal jazz album (Shade) in 2004.
Author James Hale
Christmas Blues. (1989). Alert 80551
Girl Talk. (1990). Alert 81016
Blame It On My Youth. (1991). Blue Note 97349
Don't Smoke In Bed. (1993). Blue Note 81198
It Happened One Night. (1995). Metro Blue 52699
Temptation. (1995). Blue Note 31653
Dark Dear Heart. (1997). Blue Note 57365
Yesterday & Today. (1998). Capitol 4715
The Best Of Holly Cole. (2000). Blue Note 29064
Santa Baby: Live In Toronto. (2000). EMI 8659
Romantically Helpless. (2000). EMI 81037
Baby It's Cold Outside. (2001). Alert 81038
Shade. (2003). Alert 528103
The Holly Cole Collection Vol 1. (2004) Alert 6152810402
Ratliff, Ben. "A singer who also acts touches a youthful chord," New York Times, 29 Nov 1996
The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada
Links to Other Sites
Blue Note: Holly Cole
The Blue Note website offers music clips from recordings featuring Holly Cole, described as “one of the world's best interpretive singers.”
The Toronto Musicians' Association
The website for the Toronto Musicians' Association, an organization that represents professional musicians in all facets of music in the greater Toronto area. Click on "Multimedia" to access online music videos.
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