It's been a long long time since I heard lounge music with this basso oriented a singer and just as long since such a vocalist tackled the Songbook repertoire with so many scary potential pitfalls while breezing through 'em as if they never existed. Yeah, Bill Coté ain't exactly your average singer, having waited 20 years until a good deal later in life to release his debut, but, man, thank the stars he met the redoubtable Tamir Hendelman on a sea cruise and was persuaded by the piano wunderkind to get serious. In a friendly accident of vacation-time, the two met and got talking, and, discovering Bill's secret love, Hendelman offered to accompany him on an impromptu song, just for the hell of it, curious what would occur…and that single rendition was all it took.
In the very first cut here, Where or When, I must've a dozen times thought "Oh man, he's definitely going to puff this!" in various junctures and then was caught wide-eyed as Coté transposed the song subtly to perfection. I can name a dozen top drawer artists who would have avoided the situation altogether or modulated out of the tight spot. After that track, I was ready for whatever came, though, really, I shoulda known better: anything Hendelman's attached to is going to inevitably be very very worthwhile. And Coté may look like someone's dad or a math teacher, but when he opens his mouth is when you drop any notion of mundane expectations. The guy even re-crafted Billy Joel's evergreen with new lyrics, making it into L.A. State of Mind, a highlight of the disc and a crowd-pleasing concert favorite, not to mention great for delighted chuckles from transplanted Angelenos like myself.
Of course Hendelman arranges everything and brings in great sidemen who are never intrusive, always on point, and 100% supportive. Then there's his own work, which is eternally fresh and invigorating even when balladic, as in Who Can I Turn To?. The guy can fuse delicacy with such a vibrant knowing hand that light just pours out of his work, whether swinging or meditative. This of course makes his presence a perfect offset to Coté's rich tones and autumn textures, summer slowly turning into fall in the most delicious sense. Bill's handling of melancholy benefits much from the intermixing of the two. His version of Spring can Really Hang You Up the Most is the most honest take I've ever heard. I dig the hell out of that song, but Coté nailed it down into the perfect intelligent Everyman evocation, put a whole new frame around it, something I've been waiting decades to hear, and I guarantee that no matter what you expect of Bill Coté, you're still going to be quite surprised.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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