Cole, Cozy (actually, William Randolph)

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Cole, Cozy (actually, William Randolph)

Cole, Cozy (actually, William Randolph), noted jazz drummer; b. East Orange, N.J., Oct. 17, 1906; d. Columbus, Ohio, Jan. 29, 1981. The family moved to N.Y. in 1926 and Cole played drums from an early age, turning professional in 1928. He played with Wilbur Sweatman (c. 1928), and led his own band in late 1920s. Cole recorded with Jelly Roll Morton in 1930, and he worked with various leaders through the 1930s, including Blanche Calloway (1931–33), Benny Carter (late 1933-34), Willie Bryant (1935–36), and Stuff Smith (early 1936-38). In November 1938, he began his nearly four-year association with Cab Calloway, where he first attracted widespread acclaim. His solos were the highlights of several Calloway recordings of this period, including “Crescendo to Drums” and ’Taradiddle.” From 1942-45 Cole worked as a member of the CBS radio staff orch., while also leading his own trio, from time to time, at N.Y.’s Onyx club. His drumming was featured in the Broadway production of Carmen Jones in the “Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum” number. He worked with Benny Goodman in the Make Mine Music film (June 1944), and also in Billy Rose’s Seven Lively Arts theatrical production (1945–46).

During the 1940s, Cole did extensive studies at Juilliard, regular studio work 1946-48, and led own quintet in 1948, and septet in early 1949. He was with Louis Armstrong All Stars from spring of 1949 until October 1953, where his playing again was a major draw. He played regularly at the Métropole, N.Y., during the 1950s and also did freelance studio work; in 1954 Cole started a drum school in partnership with Gene Krupa (which remained in business until Krupa’s death in 1973). In autumn of 1957, he toured Europe with “All Stars’” led by Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines. In 1958 Cozy gained a hit parade success with his single “Topsy” and subsequently led his own band on national tours. He led his own group at the Métropole during early 1960s, toured Africa with his own quintet (autumn 1962-early 1963), and was regularly featured on television shows. He was a member of the Jonah Jones Quintet (1969–76); then was artist-in-residence at Capital Univ. in Columbus, Ohio. He did freelance work through the 1970s, touring Europe in 1976 with Benny Carter’s quartet as part of Barry Martyn’s show “A Night in New Orleans/” He appeared in several films including Make Mine Music and The Glenn Miller Story, and also did the soundtrack for The Strip in 1951.


Concerto for Cozy (1944); Cozy Cole (1955); Topsy (1957); Cozy Conception of Carmen (1961); Drum Beat Dancing Feet (1962); It’s a Cozy World (1964). L. Young: Blue Lester (1944). D. Gillespie: Groovin’ High (1945).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter