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Obituaries

Isaac 'Ike' Cole; Musician, Brother of Nat King Cole

April 26, 2001|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Isaac "Ike" Cole, the pianist-composer brother of the late Nat King Cole who worked on his niece Natalie's multiple Grammy-winning 1991 album "Unforgettable With Love," has died. He was 77.

Cole died Sunday of cancer in Sun Lakes near Scottsdale, Ariz., said family friend Bradley Walker of Rialto.

Taller, heavier and younger than Nat King Cole, Ike Cole was often likened in his quiet manner, keyboard talent and singing style to his famous brother, who died in 1965 of lung cancer at the age of 45.

The comparison was, Ike Cole told The Times in 1971, a decidedly mixed blessing. The favorable comparison may have been helpful, but he suffered, he said, from false accusations that he was "trying to live off the name."

At one time, Ike said, he considered changing his name but yielded to Nat's request shortly before his death that he carry on the Cole family name.

Asked early in his career if he ever deliberately copied his famous brother's style, Cole told The Times: "Perhaps unconsciously. I guess it's a family trait because my brothers also sing this way."

Ike more than made his peace with the relationship, and in 1990, the 25th anniversary of his brother's death, he teamed with another brother, Freddy, to tour the company with their show, "We Remember Nat . . . A Salute to Our Brother."

Reared in a musical family, Ike Cole first played in an Army band. His instrument was the bass drum.

But shortly after that, in 1957, he earned his first contract in Chicago and went on the road playing piano with his Ike Cole Trio.

When he played the Beverly Hills Club during his first swing through the West in 1966, a Times critic said, "Ike's piano work, like Nat's, is outstanding, and he seems to enjoy every minute he's in the spotlight."

Cole earned spots on the television variety shows of Andy Williams, Dean Martin and Red Skelton, and was soon booked steadily for Las Vegas shows.

Although often singing a medley of his older brother's hits, Ike Cole performed primarily jazz standards.

With his trio, Ike Cole regularly toured Japan, Australia and Europe as well as performing in clubs across the United States.

When niece Natalie Cole recorded her late father's songs in her 1991 album, Ike played keyboard. The album sold more than 6 million copies around the world and earned Grammys for Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Performance as well as Song of the Year for songwriter Irving Gordon.

Cole is survived by his wife, Margie; sons Larry, Jimmy and Eddie; and a brother, Freddy.

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