Holly Cole, The Montreal International Jazz Festival and Montreal audiences have a close relationship – so close that this summer’s festival with mark the jazz singer’s 25th festival appearance when she takes the stage at intimate Théâtre du Nouveau Monde for three consecutive nights; June 27, 28 & 29.

One of Canada’s best selling jazz artists; Holly will be performing songs from her newest recording – Night. During a recent conversation with Holly, I was impressed with her drive to find herself musically, and the courage required to follow a path of discovery towards jazz music and ultimately to be a jazz singer.

Originally from Halifax, Holly grew up in a musical household. “We all played the piano, and it wasn’t until I started going to school that I realized that not everyone played a musical instrument. My parents are classical musicians and my older brother writes musical theatre – so music has always been a big part of my life. My parents were always very supportive. When I told them that I wanted to pursue a career in jazz, they said; ‘Holly – if that’s what you love – then go ahead and do it.’ What a wonderful gift it was for them to give me their support like that. My parents instilled in me a yearning for what I do now.”

When she was just sixteen, Holly hitch-hiked to Boston to meet up with (and surprise) her brother, Allen. He was attending the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, regarded as the world’s best school for jazz musicians and composers.

“I had $20 and just appeared at his dorm. We both had long hair and he let me use his ID to get in and out of the dorm. I audited classes, and it was during this visit that I fell in love with jazz music.”

“I stared playing Alto sax, a junior model that I worked at for a year before the penny dropped when I heard women like Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Betty Carter. Once I learned not to be afraid of my own voice, singing came so easily to me. As a singer – you have no filter between yourself and the audience. It’s your voice and you have to accept the sound of your own voice as your instrument.”
“I learned that singing is an art form that would enable me to make a personal statement. I feel so fortunate to have found out that this is what I would do – some people never find out what they could do their best at.”

“Holly Cole consistently proves that delivering a lyric is as much a creative art as writing one.” -Rolling Stone

Holly moved to Toronto to attend Humber College of Music. “I sang Lush Life for my audition, and most of the other students were more like pop singers. I was the only one singing Billie Holiday.” Holly attended classes by day, but it was in the small blues and jazz clubs and where she learned the practical aspects of performing and developed her vocal identity. “I’d just go up and ask if I could sing, and it often worked. I learned how to use a microphone, how to get a feel for an audience and how to perform in front of an audience.”

One evening Holly was singing with a big band, and pianist Aaron Davis was in the audience. He asked about Holly and sent a message that he might like to work with her. “I called him the next morning and met with him that same afternoon. We played Someone To Watch Over Me and it was clear to us that we were going to work together.” Decades later, Holly, Aaron and bassist David Piltch are still travelling the world to perform.

However, there was a delay in getting started; “We had one rehearsal and then I was in a car accident and broke my jaw. It was wired shut for two months. I went home and my mom made everything into a drink. I continued to practice, even with my wired jaw.”

After recovering, the trio made their first performance in 1986. “We worked as a trio because we couldn’t afford a drummer in those early days. That leaves space in the music.” In 1989 the Holly Cole Trio released their first recording, an EP titled Christmas Blues, followed by Girl Talk in 1990 and fifteen more recordings; including her most recent – Night, which has won critical acclaim. Holly has sold hundreds of thousands of records in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. She’s won three Juno Awards and two Gemini Awards. She is so popular in Japan that there is a club in Tokyo called Holly Cole, where all the music played is by Holly Cole and all the photos decorating the walls are of Holly Cole.

“I look at the essence of a song, if it’s a great lyric I often love to slow it down, explore it, dissect it and deconstruct it. I love to take it apart and then put it back together and look at it in an entirely different way. In the process, it often becomes more evocative. That’s a huge part of my art form, that’s a huge part of what I do.”

“Cole’s voice: smoky, though not quite sultry; as sly as it is sexy; and brimming with adventure bordering on recklessness. And it bears an alluring touch of darkness, though it’s not without a mitigating hint of optimism.”
– The Wall Street Journal

Holly Cole will perform at the Theatre du Nouveau Monde on June 27, 28 and 29. During our conversation she alluded to the possibility of some special guests joining her on stage.
Tickets are selling fast, and this intimate 850 seat theatre is an ideal venue to appreciate the subtlety of Holly’s singing and the fine musicianship of Aaron Davis and the band.

For tickets, please call:
514-866-8668 or www.tnm.qc.ca Enjoy!

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