Volume 1 | Issue 24 | CD Review: Holly Cole’s ‘Steal the Night’

CD Review: Holly Cole’s Steal the Night

by: Craig Dubecki

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle.

Jazz music is all about the parts being able to talk and listen to each other, finding a way to come together and allow for a beautiful, sultry voice to give it life with words.

The parts include the reformation of the Holly Cole Trio with Aaron Davis on piano/percussion and David Piltch on bass/percussion. Additionally, there is John Johnson (horns/percussion), Robert Piltch (guitar) and Davide DiRenzo (drums/percussion). This makes for one amazingly talented and greater ‘whole’.

I admit, not all jazz is easy to listen to; you either love it or hate it. The jazz on Steal The Night is a complete joy. I imagined many settings where listening to Holly would be perfect in the background: a winter’s night with the fireplace crackling; on the deck at the cottage sharing bottles of wine with good company; or by oneself or with a few friends after a long week of work, enjoying a warm drink on the couch or backyard deck.

Right out of the gate with a jazzed up version of Tom Waite’s “Down, Down, Down”, Holly wastes no time getting the energy into high gear. The sax makes a great contribution segueing into bass and drums followed by Holly’s sultry and very playful vocals. The volume and tonic control are a real treat to listen to.

“Cheer up! There is always a brighter tomorrow.” That’s what Charlie Chaplin’s song “Smile” is all about. (Yes, that Charlie Chaplin!) He composed the music for his 1936 movie Modern Times. It’s been covered by some of the greats. Holly doesn’t alter that pattern; she gives an amazingly passionate version for us to enjoy. Henri Mancini’s “Charade”, from the movie of the same title, is next at number three, giving us some great jazzy saxophone and piano solos. It was almost as if I could hear the instruments talk to each other back and forth, figuring out how they wanted the song to evolve as it went on.

Then Holly steps back. With just the piano at the start, she gives a deep, heart-felt rendition of “Good Time Charlie”. If you have not yet cuddled up to your mate by the time this song hits, you will – both during and after. I’ve heard many versions of this staple song but this is one of the nicest.

Maintaining this slower, more passionate theme, Holly’s very own “Larger Than Life” tells a story of all the great things she’s experienced, all of which do not compare with the new man in her life. Holly uses her vocal expertise to accentuate words within the phrases causing them to virtually come to life. A beautiful flute solo keeps us from losing ourselves within our imagination before climaxing with the finale.

I realized after listening to “Calling You” that Holly has subliminally taken me on a journey. Many of these songs tell very sweet stories and Holly’s choice of “Calling You” continues the adventure. A fabulous piano intro, which is the only instrument from start to finish, remains haunting as Holly weaves the story and builds the song to a crescendo that chills the spine. This is a truly beautiful and enchanting song.

“Cry (If You Want To)” picks up the beat. Holly tells us all that it’s a song for all the modern lovers. The crowd is hooting and hollering! Holly and her amazing ensemble play the diverse parts to perfection. I was in awe at the amazing change almost halfway through, where it breaks and leaves just the cymbals and bass to play on each other before the bass eventually leads Holly back into the fold.

Fingers snapping, bass setting the mood, Holly trying to find the truth – I can imagine her looking me straight in the eyes and saying, “You’ve Got A Secret”. This is a very cool, creative original from Holly. Like a snake charmer, when the clarinet joins in, she would have me completely under her spell.

“I Can See Clearly Now” is a wonderful final song. Written by Johnny Nash and featuring a very upbeat tempo between major and minor keys, Holly showcases her phenomenal voice. She takes the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions before leading into the final note. I am sure that you, like me, will be singing along.

I feel truly honoured and blessed to have had the privilege of listening to Steal The Night. For those of you who have a big-screen television, I am sure the DVD will be an equal, if not more remarkable, experience.

Holly Cole will be among the headliners at this year’s 20th anniversary of the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival (put on by Sun Life Financial), held July 20-22. With Holly making her debut at the festival, and with the additional featured artists, this year’s three-day jazz party promises to be stellar!

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