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On this date in 1909, African American jazz drummer William Randolph “Cozy” Cole was born in East Orange, New Jersey.
His three brothers, all of whom were jazz musicians, influenced Cole’s musical education. He attended Wilberforce University for two years, moving to New York in 1926. Two years later, Cole began playing professionally with Wilbur Sweatman, then leading his own band before joining Jelly Roll Morton in 1930. Beginning inn 1930, Cole played with Blanch Calloway, Benny Carter, Willie Bryant, and Jonah Jones. His break came with Duke Ellington in 1939. It is his drum solo that you hear on the song “Cresecendo in Drums.”
Cole’s career moved to the CBS Orchestra until 1944, and this led to film scores such as "Make Mine Music" (1945), "The Strip" (1951), and an appearance in "The Glenn Miller Story," 1953. From 1949 to 1953, he played and recorded with Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars. He then managed a drum school in Manhattan with Gene Krupa. Along with Sid Catlett, Cole was one of the most influential drummers of the swing era, and he was particularly noted for his ability to play any style.
In 1958, he made the solo hit record "Topsey." He was a very popular attraction in the New York club scene during the 1960s. Cole toured Africa in 1962 and 1963, and at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1973. He died in Columbus, Ohio in 1981.
All That Jazz: The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited
Jazz: A History of the New York Scene
Samuel Charters and Leonard Kunstadt
(Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1962)