Brad Cole and Bossa Blue take over Manhattan

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Four albums into his solo career, Brad Cole decided to switch things up a bit.

“To some degree, I’m kind of over myself a little bit,” he laughs. “I’ve been running around as a singer-songwriter for many years now and it’s gone really well.”

But Cole’s mojo was working toward a different direction. Meet Bossa Blue.

“His project was born out of a very particular geeked-out passion I have for Bossa and the artistic world that was basically the early 1960s to the early 1970s,” Cole said. “I’m unapologetically in that space. And what I do as a singer-songwriter is a little bit there, but this is my excuse to go there stylistically and completely do things the way I want to do them musically.”

On Oct. 4, Bossa Blue will begin a weekly residency at Caffe Vivaldi in New York City, playing two sets every Wednesday night for a month. The gigs will not only see the band play the covers that have already been thrilling audiences, but the first set on Oct. 11 and Oct. 25 will see them perform selections from the James Taylor songbook.

“We have radically changed a lot of them, some of them not so radically,” he said of the 14 Taylor selections. “But the components of melody, structure and rhythm and the arrangement of the vocal, we have taken a lot of liberties with these songs.”

When Cole talks of these songs and his new project, you can hear the excitement in his voice, and it’s genuine.

“It’s been great,” he said. “It is certainly a guilty pleasure for me with some of these songs, and some of them are just a huge challenge. But we want the challenge. This gets me out of bed every morning and I want to put time into this on stage and manage a band to do all this. It’s so worth it on many levels.”

And while it isn’t the easiest process in the world to take some classics like Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise,” Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and The Killers’ “When You Were Young” and put them in a whole new musical light, Cole and company don’t just pull it off, but in some cases (and I’m not naming names), they surpass the originals.

“Honestly, I get both opinions,” Cole said. “The people who get it are knocked out, and I think they get the idea of let’s renew. And there are some people who don’t want to stray away. The analogy is that nobody will make chicken soup better than your mother. So if you’re gonna try to do chicken soup like my mom, it better be spot on. But if you want to add chorizo and do something sexy and make it different, well, the world is full of both kinds of people.”

If you’re of the group that believes only mom can make good chicken soup, Bossa Blue does deserve your ears without any pre-existing biases. If you do that, it’s impossible not to be taken in. And along the way, Cole has been taken in by a batch of songwriters that he appreciates in a new way.

“Expressing myself in that area means that I’m opening up some doors that I really wasn’t going through as a singer-songwriter, probably just because of habit,” he said. “So I’m pushing myself more melodically, more from a range standpoint, and I’m very intimate with the structure and the lyric behind these tunes, especially the James Taylor ones that I’ve become uber intimate with in terms of the storytelling. But where it’s really affecting me is opening up other arrangements that I wasn’t really doing and opening up a melodic range that I’ve noticed in my own playing and my current writing, and that’s the best gift an artist can get.”

Now he’s giving that gift back to the listeners.

“Some people care about branding, I don’t really care about that,” Cole said. “I’m just trying to make some music that’s good.”

Bossa Blue begins its residency at Caffe Vivaldi in NYC on October 4. For more information, click here

For more information on Bossa Blue, click here