Born: January, 1976 Primary Instrument: Vocal
With a voice praised as “a deep contralto as smooth and dark as the richest espresso” (Jazz Times, November 2007,) award-winning jazz vocalist Alexis Cole has made an impressive impact on audiences ever since she first took the stage as a teenager. Yet it is impossible to understand Alexis’s power to touch listeners with her music without recognizing the influence that her devotion to a full spiritual life has played throughout her career. This holiday season, Alexis’ spiritual and musical interests once again coincide to miraculous effect as she offers The Greatest Gift to the world.
A touching Christmas album with a jazzy twist that benefits a terrific cause, The Greatest Gift was inspired, says Alexis, “by Jesus’ love for humankind” as well as by her father, composer/arranger Mark Finkin. Sales of the CD will benefit World Bicycle Relief, an organization which provides sustainable access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunities in developing nations through The Power of Bicycles©. One specific event from Alexis’ youth resonates
through the years to find a fitting echo in The Greatest Gift. While in high school, she collided with a car while riding her bicycle. Her recovery from the experience led to the beginning of her Christian Journey. It makes sense, then, that Alexis decided that the profits from the sale of The Greatest Gift would be donated to World Bicycle Relief, as the organization’s mission resonated with her own love of bicycles and her ongoing desire to make an impact on the world.
Raised in Florida, Alexis came from a musical family, so it was only natural that she had begun to perform at the South Beach Hotel when still in high school, rapidly earning a reputation as one of the most talented young singers in town. She went on to enroll in the University of Miami's Jazz Studies program with the help of a Young Arts Scholarship. She transferred to finish her degree at William Paterson University, later integrating her musical studies with work that satisfied a spiritual calling at churches in New Jersey and North Carolina. Eventually, she relocated to New York City, where she worked as the music minister at the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, leading the congregation with a blend of historic hymns and popular songs, music from the Taize tradition and Christian folk.
Alexis released her first CD in 1999, a duet project with pianist Harry Pickens, titled Very Early. In 2005, she earned her Masters degree in music, and began to perform frequently at clubs throughout New York City, including The Oak Room, Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, The 55 Bar, The Zinc Bar, Smoke, Smalls and Sweet Rhythm. That same year, she released a second CD. Nearer the Sun, which renowned jazz critic Scott Yanow lauded as “a particularly strong effort from a jazz singer well worth discovering.”
As her performing career took wing, Alexis traveled across Europe, Asia and South America. She also taught at a Berklee College of Music in Quito, Ecuador, and has entertained audiences during several three-month-long residencies at clubs in Tokyo. Despite her penchant for globetrotting, Alexis managed to release a third CD, Zingaro, in 2007, which Time Out New York praised as a “disc that will please purists and more adventurous listeners alike.”
True to Alexis’ eclectic nature, the tracks on The Greatest Gift span genres. Selections include jazz and classical instrumentals, children’s chorale arrangements, Indian classical and overtone singing, straight ahead jazz, and bluesy pop. Alexis reinvents the Christmas favorites “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and she contributes a heart-warming new song, “The Call,” to the lineup of Christmas standards.
Mark Finkin, Alexis’ father, pens an uplifting, catchy, and sure-to-become holiday classic for the album, “Jesus Is the Best Part of Christmas,” and also delivers perhaps the most blues-y version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” ever on record. Born into fascinating circumstances as a child of two deaf parents determined to give their child what they couldn’t have, Mark was introduced early on to the piano, and remains a passionate and prolific composer and performer.
Finkin’s unique story, in part, inspired Alexis to record The Greatest Gift. In 2007, as Alexis sat in the audience of her father’s long-awaited college graduation recital, where he performed original compositions and unique arrangements of hymns, she reached a musical and personal epiphany. She decided to collaborate with her father on a Christmas benefit album, reinvesting herself in their relationship, and in her relationship to the church.
A winner of the 2007 Jazzmobile competition and an award recipient at the Montreux Jazz Voice Competition, Alexis was cited as a rising star in the jazz world” by Hot House Magazine. She continues to perform regularly at jazz clubs in her home base of New York City, as well as throughout the world. A dedicated educator, Alexis teaches privately and has also served on the faculty of at the 92nd St. Y in New York City and Berklee College of Music in Quito. Most recently, she’s also added the position of lead vocalist for the West Point Jazz Knights, the U.S. Army’s big band, to her always eclectic resume.
Awards:Awards & Grants 2007 New York City Jazzmobile Vocal Competition 1st Place Winner 2004 Montreux Jazz Festival Shure Vocal Competition, 3rd Prize Winner 2003& 2005 Montreux Jazz Festival Shure Vocal Competition finalist 2004 Council for Arts and Humanities on Staten Island Emerging Artist Grant 1998National Endowment for the Arts Charles Cinnamon Grant 1994 National Endowment for the Arts A.R.T.S. Scholarship
A daring singer. -Bill Donaldson, Jazz Improv Aug '08
Alexis Cole is the real thing- a creative interpreter of quality songs with undoubted jazz sensibility and taste.
- Bob Weir, Jazz Journal Int'l Dec'07 Alexis has a fine sense of harmonic and rhythmic ingenuity without ever sacrificing the songs' lyrical qualities. - Bob Weir, Jazz Journal Int'l Dec '07
superior jazz singing -Bob Weir, Jazz Journal Int'l Dec '07
blessed with a deep contralto as smooth and dark as the richest espresso - Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times Nov '07
A rising star in the Jazz World - George Kanzler, Hot House NY
A jazz singer well worth discovering -All Media Guide
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Willing to teach:
Mostly interested in helping singers become jazz singers. I can play piano and work on repertoire, choosing keys and helping to work towards an authentic jazz feel. Masters of Music from Queens College in Jazz Voice, minor in jazz piano and classical voice Bachelors of Music from William Paterson and University of Miami Private study througth the Jazz India Vocal Institute in Mumbai Voice Faculty at Berklee College of Music in Quito Ecuador Private teacher at the 92nd St. Y NYC