As a child, I grew up listening and singing along to Ella, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Blossom, Frank, Louis and many more, including the incomparable Nat King Cole. But it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I began to listen to his “King Cole Trio” albums in a really obsessive fashion. I discovered how much I was drawn to his warm and sincere vocals. I loved his effortless swing, his outstanding piano comping and the fabulous ‘togetherness’ of his drummerless trio with Oscar Moore on guitar and Johnny Miller on the bass.
I loved the fact that, nestled amongst more widely-covered classics like “Sweet Lorraine” and “Too Marvelous For Words,” there were other, lesser known tunes that nobody else could make swing quite like him.
Take the song “What can I say (after I say I’m sorry?)” Despite some rather ho-hum lyrics, Nat made this tune so memorably his own. Once you’ve heard Nat’s version, the recordings made in subsequent decades by Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin pale in comparison and none swing as much as Nat’s.
Listening to his recording of “‘Tis Autumn,” you realize another quality that sets Nat’s interpretations apart – his unique melodic variations. These invariably improve and enhance the melody. His little changes are so subtle and unobtrusive that you don’t quite realize what he’s done until you’re listening to another singer’s version of the same tune and finding yourself wishing for the “Nat-isms.”
When I suggested to Adrian that the OJO do a tribute to Nat for the 100th anniversary of his birth, I was initially resigned to the fact that I’d have to abandon my usual multilingual repertoire. But as I researched Nat’s discography more thoroughly in preparation for the show, I was amazed to discover that he had made records in French, Spanish and Portuguese. His beautiful voice rises above any issues of pronunciation as he sings some of his big hits in translation.
I’m very excited about performing this show on April 6th with Mark Ferguson on piano, Adrian Cho on bass, Tim Bedner on guitar and Mike Tremblay on saxophone. We look forward to sharing this music with you. Can’t wait to see you there!