Blending the incredible jazz gospel vibe of Jonathan Butler and Kirk Whalum and the melodic and funk sensibilities of Brian Culbertson with a dynamic and innovative keyboard style all his own, Goldsboro, North Carolina native Nicholas Cole helps usher in the next generation of contemporary urban jazz artists with his compelling independently released debut album A Journey of One. Showing remarkable poise, melodic invention and improvisational jazz skills for a 17-year-old musician, Nicholas produced the remarkable 12 track project (which was executive produced by his musician father, Leon Cole) in his home studio. Having played piano and organ in church since the age of four, he brings a unique variety of secular and spiritual musical influences to the project—including smooth jazz stars Culbertson, Peter White and Brian Simpson and renowned gospel greats Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Walter Hawkins, Yolanda Adams and producer Kevin Bond. He currently attends and performs at Mt. Zion Church Ministries in Goldsboro.
While it was Nicholas’ extended church family that encouraged and inspired his dream of recording his own album, the young artist gives all the glory to God as if he is simply a vessel for a greater purpose. “I didn’t just want to make some nice grooves in the studio,” he says, “I really wanted to write and play music that came from the heart. God gave me the gift to play, and so naturally I write and play music that comes from a very spiritual place, as if it’s put on my heart and I am given the opportunity to express it. There is a deep connection between jazz and gospel and while the album is predominantly a contemporary jazz project, I incorporate a lot of gospel riffs and chord progressions.”
While Nicholas often likes to say that he was trained musically in church, he also took lessons early on from Jimmy Aycock, who has been teaching piano in the Goldsboro area for over 30 years. Believing that Cole’s talent surpassed that of most of his other students, Aycock suggested that he consider The Julliard School in New York—and wrote a recommendation. Another teacher, Rick Dipiro, who met Nicholas when the Cole family was on vacation in Myrtle Beach, realized that Cole’s style was more suited for jazz than classical and suggested he attend Berklee School of Music. While dedicating himself to his solo recording and performing career, Cole plans to attend Berklee when he graduates high school.