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Canary in Combat Boots

Hamilton, Ohio – It seemed like a fair question.

What on earth could possibly motivate a national recording artist to trade concert venues and glamorous show gowns for olive-drab fatigues and PT duty?

Alexis Cole gave a more-than-fair answer - a chance to perform with the world-renowned United States Army Band.

“I had an opportunity to have a full-time job as a singer with an amazing orchestra,” Cole said. “It’s a very coveted position and I was fortunate to get it.

“The worst part was the sleep deprivation. I was 33 when I started basic training and I wasn’t used to that level of physical activity on that little rest. The best was not having my phone or email. I’ll probably never in my life have that lack of responsibility to be constantly connected ever again.”

Despite the lack of connectivity, Cole wrote out a weekly blog – in long hand, no less - called “Jazz Diva in Basic Training.” Make no mistake, she went through one of the most demanding initiation rites on the planet, spending three months in basic at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, just like any other recruit.

“For most of the readers of my blog, this was something way out of their purview,” Cole said. “Military people refer to themselves as the other one percent. We aren’t the rich ones. We’re the ones who serve. People don’t really relate to what it’s like to serve in the military. It’s really, really hard.”

Cole brings her one-woman show Canary in Combat Boots to the Fitton Center for Creative Arts on Saturday, November 11 to celebrate Veterans Day.

She weaves stories of her six-plus years of Army service – from basic training to traveling the country and the world singing for dignitaries and fellow soldiers alike - with WWII-era jazz standards, contemporary numbers and modern patriotic songs.

Expect tunes like Frank Loesser’s “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old,” made famous by Bette Davis in the 1943 movie “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” and Johnny Mercer’s 1944 big-band classic “G.I. Jive,” but also pieces like Mark Schultz’s emotional 2003 release, “Letters from War.”

While Cole is used to performing with a big band, Canary in Combat Boots has evolved over time.

“The show has actually devolved a little in the years since I first started doing it,” Cole said. “It’s just me and piano now, not a whole orchestra. It’s a lot more intimate, a lot more personal.”

Cole’s Fitton Center appearance comes between a pair of shows at the New York City landmark Algonquin Hotel’s famous Blue Bar Nov. 7 and 14.

From there, she plays the London Jazz Festival in England on November 18 and in Vienna, Austria, November 23. Both European shows support the Both Sides of Joni CD tribute to the music of Joni Mitchell, released earlier in March. She’s back in the States Dec. 1 for the Vermont Jazz Center Big Band Scholarship Gala and returns to the Algonquin December 5.

Tickets to Canary in Combat Boots are $35 for Fitton Center Members and $43 for non-members. Veterans and active service members can get tickets for $25 by using the code VETERAN at the time of purchase. (There is a $1 fee for each ticket.) Tickets are available online here, by phone at 513-863-8873, ext. 110, or in person at the Fitton Center box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10-5 Fridays.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

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