|Holly Cole will sing songs from her new album, Night, as well as many of her older hits, when she performs in Kelowna on Sunday.|
"I've done about 20 trips to Japan so far. The Japanese people are hugely in love with all North American music, but they are especially having a love affair with jazz," Cole said. "They are intense, very intense listeners. The lyric content of a song doesn't really matter. It's the music that speaks volumes. Music is a universal language."
Her reception in Japan still surprises her because of the way people treat her.
"It's overwhelming, sometimes," Cole explained. "It's like walking into a Beatlemania kind of thing. You don't get the sense of it until you experience it - all these fans waiting for me!"
Cole, who has the trademark of being able to imbue well-worn standards and eclectic songs with her uncanny combination of sensuality, innocence and musicality, is a Canadian icon when it comes to the world of jazz.
The entertainer is a winner of three Junos and two Geminis, and has enjoyed a solid career on both sides of the border, as well as selling hundreds of thousands of CDs in Germany and Japan.
She will share her musical honesty and compassion with Kelowna audiences on Sunday at the Kelowna Community Theatre, and has been well-received in the Okanagan during her previous performances.
"I love my audiences," Cole said. "I've been noticing that the love and understanding of jazz is crossing the generations. There are parents bringing their kids, and many of the newcomers to jazz are in their early 20s. That's just great for performers. And the more kids can find in common with their parents, the more they can share and enjoy, the better."
Jazz trends and stylings have always left room for a myriad of personal expression, which makes the music either "much loved" or not so appreciated.
"Jazz engulfs so many things, and sometimes it comes with a cache," Cole added. "You either like it, or you don't.
"People often think that it's too busy, or too intellectual. But I see jazz as a combination of sophisticated, groovy and uptown kind of music."
No stranger to the soft-seat concert performances, Cole is also at home in a club-like setting, although there are "clubs and then there are clubs with a capital C."
"There are fantastic clubs in bigger cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Seattle," she said. "There's a whole package to look at. A really great club is a combination of things. It has to be elegant, it has to be sexy. There has to be great food, great sound. The room needs to be set up with the right sight-lines.
"Jazz is a whole experience, and the music has to be the priority," she added. "People have to listen. It's not like a rock show. Jazz is about enjoyment, and as singers we need to have more of that given to the audience."
Jazz critics have pegged Cole delivering "smoky lyrics" and consistently refer to her ability to toy with old favourites and her own new material.
"If it's a great lyric, I love to slow it down, explore it, dissect it and deconstruct it," she said.
"I love to take it apart and put it back together and look at the song in an entirely different way. In the process, it becomes more evocative and that's a huge part of my art form."
Sharing the stage with Cole will be her band members, including Aaron Davis on piano, David Piltch on bass, Davide DiRenzo on drums and John Johnson on horns. Cole recently released a new CD called Night, which is her first release in several years.
She will sing cuts from that album, as well as favourites like I Can See Clearly Now, Make it Go Away and Calling You.
"That last CD was overdue," she joked. "It took me five years to pull it off, so I'm really looking forward to sharing it with my audiences."
What: An evening of jazz with Holly Cole.
When: Sunday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St.
Tickets: Available at Select Your Tickets box office, Prospera Place, 250-762-5050 or selectyourtickets.com.