Grammy winner Paula Cole waited 30 years to release jazz album
Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Paula Cole, who will perform at the Egyptian Theatre from Feb. 22-24, is known for her Top 20 pop hits “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait.”
What many people don’t know is Cole has always wanted to make a jazz album during her nearly 30-year career.
“I’ve come so close a couple of times, but the circumstances weren’t quite right,” Cole said. “It just wasn’t the right time.”
That changed last year when she hunkered down and created her eighth full-length release “Ballads,” which features Cole’s covers of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless This Child,” Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.”
“I wanted my album to be rootsy,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be slick and popular, because I wanted a soulful guitar-based rhythm section like Wes Montgomery.”
Cole also wanted to have a Bob Dylan song next to a Billie Holiday song.
“I also wanted a bit of social activism in the expression of it because that’s what Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and all my heroes did,” she said. “The album also needed to be reflected right, so I had to wait 30 years.”
Cole has always loved jazz and songs from the Great American Songbook.
“I started out as a jazz singer, which many people may or may not know,” she said “I performed in jazz clubs including the Boston Airport Hilton through college on Thursday nights.”
Her die-hard fans know that Cole has performed on a couple of jazz trumpeter Chris Botti’s albums, as well as collaborated with Herbie Hancock and performed with Terri Lyne Carrington.
So recording an album like “Ballads” has been a long time coming, and Cole enjoyed the whole process.
“We recorded 31 songs in five days, and we ended up releasing a double album of 20 songs,” she said. “It was truly a labor of love.”
“Ballads” honors the masters — John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Nina Simone.
“I’m also honoring my dad, who was a professional musician who played many different instruments in many different styles,” Cole said. “He clued me into the music in the first place.”
The Egyptian Theatre concerts will feature selections from “Ballads.”
“I’m so happy to weave these songs into the set, because we’ll also launch into the hits and B-sides from my own catalog,” Cole said. “This is the full picture. The set accurately reflects who I am, and I can talk about how I came to be here and my influences.”
Cole will be joined by guitarist Chris Bruce and bassist Ross Gallagher.
“It will be an acoustic performance with me on the piano,” she said.
The last time Cole performed in Park City was in 1998 at Canyons Resort, now called Canyons Village at Park City Mountain.
“I remember how gorgeous the town was,” she said.
Earlier that year, Cole became the first woman nominated for a Grammy Award for Producer of the Year.
The nomination was one of a string of nominations that included Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
She won Best New Artist, but the Producer of the Year nomination meant the world to her.
“I felt like I was nominated for all women, you know?” she said.
That school of thought comes from Cole’s activism, which continues today.
“There is a lot to say socially, politically, spiritually in this day and time,” she said. “I was appreciated by feminists 20 years ago, but I felt the backlash, an almost political stoning, because I was one of the most outspoken and the darkest horse from the Lilith Fair movement.”
Although Cole felt the hate for her outspoken feminism, her stance did move the needle for the female singer and songwriters that came after her.
“I’m grateful to the millennials who are changing the culture,” she said. “They are vocal about things that us Gen-Xers have not been so vocal about, including identity, gender, orientation and mental health issues.”
Cole, who is a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, works closely with millennials and has seen their impact on society.
“I have needed to understand and be empathetic to the conversation and help them become advocates,” she said. “I don’t know how long I’ll be on this planet and I don’t know how long I’ll be teaching. But I’m aware of my mortality and I want to do a lot and want to help people on their trajectory.”
Cole is also grateful she still has the opportunity to make music.
“I’m still here after 20 years, and I have a lot to say,” she said. “But the thing is I still have my positivity and still have my light.”
That’s important because the music business can become a hostile environment for women, Cole said.
“It will try to squish you into a box and it will try to objectify you, but I love it for the music and connection with my fans,” Cole said. “I love what I do. And when I go out on the road, people show up and I’m so grateful.”
Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter Paula Cole will perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 22-24, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $23-$35. Friday and Saturday Tickets are $29 to $45. They can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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