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Holly Cole hit the scene just before the whole Great American Songbook thing took off, a time when every pop star able to carry a melody in a paper bag decided they needed to be taken seriously as an artist. Don’t blame Cole, though. She understood jazz phrasing, knew the difference between sexy and garish, and had no problem treating works by Cole Porter and Tom Waits with equal amounts of respect.

Cole knows how to inhabit a song, no matter who may have written the thing. Her most recent effort, “Night,” lays this matter to rest once and for all. Here is Cole in her element – embodying the characters at the heart of songs by Waits, Jacques Brel and Gordon Lightfoot with sultry aplomb, blurring the lines between what we accept as a classic and what is in fact a still-living entity open to limitless interpretation.

Cole’s a class act. She performs at 8 p.m. Friday in the Bear’s Den, Seneca Niagara Casino, Niagara Falls. Tickets, starting at $40, are available through the casino box office and Ticketmaster.

– Jeff Miers