A post-performance shot of Kevin with Motown legend Aretha Franklin after he performed with Franklin, Barbra Streisand, and Liza Minnelli.
Born in Bay City, Michigan, Cole graduated from the renowned Interlochen Arts Academy. Soon afterward, he began a history of garnering personal praise from legends like Irving, Berlin, Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg, Hugh Martin, Burton Lane, and Stephen Sondheim as well as members of both the Jerome Kern and George/Ira Gershwin families.
Steinway Artist Kevin Cole has delighted audiences with a repertoire that includes the best of 20th Century American music. Kevin Cole’s performances, especially his interpretation of Gershwin, have prompted accolades from some of the foremost critics in American music. “A piano genius…he reveals an understanding of harmony, rhythmic complexity and pure show-biz virtuosity that would have had Vladimir Horowitz smiling with envy”, said critic Andrew Patner of the Chicago Sun-Times. “When Cole sits down at the piano, you would swear Gershwin himself was at work…Cole stands as the best Gershwin pianist in America today,” wrote Howard Reich, arts critic for the Chicago Tribune. Edward Jablonski, author of the Encyclopedia of American Music and renowned Gershwin scholar said, “Kevin is the best Gershwin pianist since Gershwin himself – no one can touch him.”
A native of Bay City, Michigan, Cole was graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy and soon after garnered the praises of legends like Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg, Hugh Martin, Burton Lane, Stephen Sondheim and members of the Jerome Kern and Gershwin families. After hearing a very young Kevin Cole play, Irving Berlin said, “Kid, if I could play like that, I would never have become a songwriter!”
A step in a new direction featured Mr. Cole as a singer / pianist in the Gershwin’s Lady, Be Good! at the Teatro Nacional Sao Carlos, Lisbon, Portugal. Performances for the Chicago Humanities Festival include two concerts with opera great William Warfield in tribute to Duke Ellington and George Gershwin and an evening, Around the World with Cole Porter. Cole has had the pleasure of opening for Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band as well as sharing a concert evening with Broadway musical legend Barbara Cook. He was invited to be a featured performer with the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. Cole has played at the requests of such notables as Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley and the legendary Muhammed Ali.
Kevin Cole’s awards as music director and archivist include Joseph Jefferson Award, Forever Plaid, (Chicago, 1995); Bay Area Critics’ Award, Oh, Kay! (San Francisco, 1994) and The Boys From Syracuse (San Francisco 1995), San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Additionally, Kevin arranged music and directed for Sweet, Smart, Rodgers & Hart, Pasadena Playhouse and two original revues ( with writer/director Leeds Bird) R.S.V.P Jerome Kern and The Gershwin Years. He collaborated with Broadway choreographer Randy Skinner (42nd Street) to create sparkling new dance music arrangements for the smash hit revival of Babes in Arms for Goodspeed Opera House. As artistic director for Ravinia Festival’s new Steans Institute Musical Theatre Initiative, Cole presented staged readings of his new Deitz / Schwartz musical, A Shine On Your Shoes. His solo debut at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall was entirely his own compositions. Currently, a piano concerto and three new musicals absorb Kevin’s free time.
His discography includes a critically – acclaimed Lady Be Good: First Recordings of the Unknown George Gershwin (Pro Arte) and Gramophone Album of the Year, 1995, Oh, Kay! with soprano Dawn Upshaw (Elektra/Nonesuch). Kevin’s new solo piano album, Cole Plays Gershwin, will be released later this year. Kevin also recorded four discs for Yamaha’s Disklavier Pianos.
Kevin Cole is the American jazz-classical concert pianist who is increasingly regarded as the #1 interpreter of Gershwin in the world (according to Ed Jablonski, the Gershwin family, Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune, Hugh Martin, and countless others) and the top performer of the “Great American Songbook.” Kevin’s recent and upcoming performances include:
Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic
San Francisco Symphony
Edmonton Symphony (Canada)
Philharmonia Orchestra (UK)
BBC Concert Orchestra (UK)
Grant Park Symphony
Chicago Symphony Orchestra (July 4th celebration)
In addition to his busy touring and performing schedule, Kevin is currently Artist in Residence in Musical Theatre and Voice at Saginaw Valley State University.