Vocalist Alexis Cole is an accomplished jazz performer with a sophisticated, urbane style and warm, resonant voice, well suited to traditional standards and swing. Cole has performed with the likes of Rufus Reid, Slide Hampton, Ron Affif, John Hébert, and Norma Winstone. Although based in N.Y.C., she has played and taught in locales worldwide, and holds the position of head of the jazz voice program at SUNY Purchase
Born in Queens, New York, on January 28, 1976, Cole grew up in a family with a long history of musical endeavors. Her grandmother on her mother's side, who was a pianist and singer of jazz standards, initially taught Alexis "Pennies from Heaven" and other American popular songs. Her father, also a pianist, singer, and composer, gave her initial piano lessons, albeit briefly. Moving with the family to Florida, Cole was a member of the all-county, all-state, and high-school choirs, and attended the New World School of the Arts on a Young Arts Scholarship, graduating in 1994. In addition, she took private voice lessons, theater training, psychology, philosophy, writing, and history classes, all of which formed a basis for her world-view. She did her first professional engagements as a teenager at a hotel in South Beach. Initially enrolling at the University of Miami in their jazz studies program, Cole returned to the New York area, attaining her B.A. in music in 1996 at William Patterson University in New Jersey, tutored by Nancy Marano and Todd Coolman, and studied classical voice with Nan Guptil-Crain, who was also a big spiritual influence.
In 1999, Cole released her independent debut album, Very Early, featuring accompaniment from pianist Harry Pickens. In 2005, Cole returned with her sophomore solo album, Nearer the Sun, with pianist Ben Stivers. The following year, she earned her M.A. from Queens College, and then taught privately at the 92nd Street YMCA in N.Y.C. before becoming a resident instructor at the University of San Francisco, the University of North Carolina, back at Queens College, and eventually at the Berklee School of Music satellite program in Quito, Ecuador. Also around this time, Cole attended the Jazz India Vocal Institute in Mumbai (where she trained in Indian classical singing). She also participated in the Art of Jazz in Toronto, and was the music director of the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in N.Y.C. from 2004-2006. In 2007, she delivered her third full-length album, Zingaro, which found her shifting from piano accompaniment and working with bassist Jeff Eckels and guitarist Ron Affif. Two years later, she released her first holiday-themed album, The Greatest Gift.
Since the late 2000s, Cole has continued to find intriguing ways to reinvestigate American popular standards, focusing on the theme of the innocence and beauty of youth for 2010's Someday My Prince Will Come, paying tribute to the late jazz baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams on 2012's I Carry Your Heart, and going for utter sultry romanticism with 2013's Close Your Eyes. In 2014, Cole released the quartet album of standards, A Kiss in the Dark, featuring guitarist Saul Rubin, saxophonist/clarinetist Dan Block, bassist Pat O'Leary, and drummer Phil Stewart. Beautiful Friendship arrived in 2015. ~ Michael G. Nastos