NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Ronnie Kole, an acclaimed New Orleans pianist who performed across the globe, has died. He was 89.
His death Thursday night was announced on his website and the Ronnie Kole Entertainment Facebook page. The cause of death was not released.
Kole was a Chicago native. In interviews, he said he suffered from a heart condition as a child and was discouraged from playing outdoors. He began learning piano from an aunt and considered himself largely self-taught. He went on the road at 16, he told WWL-TV.
A master of a variety of musical styles, he performed for six presidents. He also played a rollicking version of “Amazing Grace” when Pope John Paul II visited New Orleans in 1987.
Kole was a protege of the late jazz trumpeter Al Hirt. And, like Hirt, he once had a club in the French Quarter — Kole’s Corner. He put down roots in the New Orleans area and, while he toured internationally, he was a regular at the annual French Quarter Festival and New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Kole lived in Slidell, across Lake Pontchartain from New Orleans. A visitation is planned for Wednesday in Slidell, followed by a private funeral.