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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Songbird Loosened From Manager-Fiance’s Grip

(CN) - Jazz singer Hilary Kole is free of her recording and management contracts with her former longtime fiance, a New York appeals court ruled.

Kole, whose real name is Hilary Kolodin, met John Valenti in 2003 when she performed at his Birdland jazz club in Times Square.

She moved into his Manhattan apartment in 2004. Later that year, they got engaged but never officially married.

In 2011, however, the couple's romantic relationship became a business one.

Kole said she signed a recording contract with Valenti's artistic management company, Jayarvee Inc., in April of that year, just a month after Valenti allegedly physically overpowered the chanteuse, took possession of her private electronic data and threatened to ruin her by revealing it to the public.

Kole moved out of the couple's shared residence in May, and signed a management contract with Jayarvee the next month.

That fall, Kole obtained a restraining order against Valenti and then sued him, Jayarvee and her accountant, Howard Weiss, to have the contracts rescinded.

Valenti countersued for the return of the engagement ring. He argued that he could not perform on the contracts because the restraining order barred him from contacting Kole either personally or through a third party, other than legal counsel.

To resolve the restraining order issue, Kole and Valenti agreed in June 2012 agreement to cease future contact with one another.

In April 2013, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge declared the contracts rescinded. The Appellate Division's First Judicial Department affirmed last week.

"For Jayarvee to perform the contracts - or, for that matter, for plaintiff to perform - the company's employees would need to serve as conduits for communications to plaintiff that originated with Valenti," Justice Rolando Acosta wrote for a five-member panel of the court. "That result would clearly violate the stipulation's prohibition of third-party contact."

Acosta added that "the stipulation is not something that the parties could have contracted around. Nor, assuming arguendo that plaintiff's allegations are true, is domestic abuse something that, as a public policy matter, parties should be expected to contract around."

The New York Daily News described Kole last year as a "songbird locked in a cage." One email from Valenti she shared with the newspaper warned Gloria Loring not to perform a duet with Kole because "Birdland reserves the right to sue for assisting a breach of contract."

Kole is currently planning a series of concerts to pay tribute to the music of Judy Garland.

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