Holly Cole at the Jazz Fest

Although the concert lacked the wow factor, the audience welcomed Holly Cole and her band.

Holly Cole

Sometimes the magic just isn’t there, and it’s hard to say why. That’s how it was at Holly Cole’s Jazz Fest appearance. Did she sound good? Yes. Did the band play well? Yes. Were they well-rehearsed? Yes. Was she friendly with the audience? Yes, definitely! Did they play good tunes? Yup. So why didn’t the magic happen?

They played some of her classics, like Girl Talk, as well as some standards, including Whatever Lola Wants, Bye Bye Blackbird, and How Long Has This Been Going On. The dark, throaty richness of Cole’s voice was on full display, especially in the lower registers, but she lacked dynamic range, phrasing, and subtlety—the things that make music come alive.

A certain uniformity of sound cast a monotonous tone over all the numbers. Located somewhere at the intersection of jazz, blues, and rock, everything sounded sort of the same, from her cover of Tom Waits’s Train Song—so gut-wrenching in his rendition—to the rock-ish interpretation of the mysterious, almost mystical Waters of March.

And while the solos were satisfactory, they didn’t really say anything new or interesting (the exception here was the bass player, who did manage to grab my attention). I’m not sure what the guitarist was doing at the beginning of Waters of March, but it didn’t really work. The drummer and the pianist were competent, but didn’t say anything above and beyond what was required. This all gave the music a bit of a workaday, almost background, quality.

All of that being said, the audience seemed quite happy. Maybe I just wasn’t on the same wavelength.

Holly Cole was at Théâtre Maisonneuve 5 July 2022 at 8pm.