NAT KING COLE / “Nat King Cole Vocals Mixtape”
There is so much that has already been said and yet… still so much more that needs to be said in recognition of the greatness and importance of Nathaniel Adams Coles born on St. Patrick’s day, 1919, in Montgomery, Alabama. He was reared in the Bronzeville area of Chicago, where his parents had moved with Nat was a child. A devotee of jazz, Nat’s first recordings emphasized his piano work. The Nat King Cole trio eventually became one of the most popular and most recorded jazz trios of the forties. Two of their recordings became major hits: “Straighten Up and Fly Right” (1943) and “Route 66” (1946). Those songs also fed an overwhelming demand for more vocals from Nat King Cole, a demand which became irresistible when Cole’s trio recorded the smash hit, “I Love You For Sentimental Reasons” (1946). By the fifties Nat King Cole had become “the” greatest male vocalist in American history. As the cliché goes, from the outhouse to the penthouse, everybody was listening to Nat King Cole. I remember fellow students in sixth grade talking about Cole’s performance in the movie China Gate in addition to singing his major hit of the period “Send For Me” (1957), Cole’s only concession to the newly emergent rock and roll phenomenon. Nat King Cole was urban contemporary before the marketing maestros came up with the label. Way back in 1950 when he recorded “Mona Lisa,” a “quiet storm” format was established. A dozen or so years later in the early to mid-sixties, if you check the high school year books in major urban areas you will undoubtedly find at least one “Mona Lisa” among the graduates. Don’t let Christmas roll around—the Christmas season ain’t officially happening until you hear Nat croon Mel Torme’s classic, “The Christmas Song.” How could one man record so many major classics of the music, year after year. In fact, one of his songs, “Unforgettable” was a hit in 1951 when he first released it and then forty or so years later becomes a hit again when his daughter, Natalie Cole, overdubs her voice onto the original tracks to produce a smash duet with her father. Nobody else has done that. From my perspective the most amazing fact is that these were songs that Nat King Cole was interpreting and not songs that he wrote. Even though he was not the author of most of his hit songs, Nat King Cole made you believe that he was singing from the heart, singing out of his personal experiences. Nat King Cole virtually defined the art of interpreting popular songs. In addition to the emotional warmth, Cole also displayed impeccable musicianship. He sang in tune—including difficult long tones at slow tempos without wavering off-pitch. He enunciated crisply while maintaining a seemingly effortless flow. His timing was superb and his phrasing displayed the finesse of a master. While utilizing the most advanced techniques of his era, Nat never sounded like he was showing off nor engaging in emotionally empty technical bravado. Indeed, rather than pyrotechnics, Nat’s calling card was a sotto-voice, intimate croon that despite its softness never failed to catch your attention. Nat King Cole was the definition of “cool.” In 1956 Nat recorded a major jazz with vocals album, After Midnight. After a decade of easy listening ballads with strings, Cole returned to his jazz roots and recorded with a combo and guest soloists. The line up is: Nat "King" Cole - vocals, piano; John Collins – guitar; Lee Young – drums; Charlie Harris – bass; and Jack Costanzo - congas, bongos along with solo spots by Harry "Sweets" Edison – trumpet; Juan Tizol – valve trombone; Willie Smith – alto; and, Stuff Smith – violin. This is my favorite Nat King Cole album. Don’t sleep on this one. If you acquire only one Nat King Cole recording, make it After Midnight—and be sure to get “The Complete Session.” While I recognize the historic importance of the early jazz trio work, including a very, very important album with Lester Young; and while I appreciate the easy listening albums from the fifties, especially the two Spanish language ones and a third Spanish/Portuguese album, I still return to After Midnight. This mid-fifties summation of Nat King Cole’s career, gives you the elegance and drive of his best jazz work and the romance of his best easy listening fare. After reading this short overview and after listening to the mixtape, if you’re still not convinced about the elegant importance of Nat King Cole to the popular world of vocal music, well, all I can say is I feel sorry for you. As far as male vocalists are concerned, there is but one King of popular American music. It ain’t Michael Jackson and it ain’t Elvis Presley. Nat. King. Cole. End of story. —Kalamu ya Salaam Nat King Cole Vocals Mixtape 1. “It's Only A Paper Moon” - After Midnight 2. “Candy” - After Midnight 3. “Walkin' My Baby Back Home” - The Billy May sessions 4. “Unforgettable” - The Unforgettable Nat King Cole 5. “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” - The Unforgettable Nat King Cole 6. "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" - Cole Español 7. “Azure-Te” - Nat King Cole Sings George Shearing Plays 8. “Guess I'll Go Back Home” - Nat King Cole Sings George Shearing Plays 9. “Calypso Blues” - The Unforgettable Nat King Cole 10. “Route 66” - After Midnight 11. Mona Lisa - Jazz on Cinema with Nat King Cole (out of print) 12. “But Beautiful” - The Very Thought Of You 13. “Sweet Lorraine” - After Midnight 14. “How Deep Is The Ocean” - The Unforgettable Nat King Cole 15. “The Very Thought Of You” - The Very Thought Of You 16. “The Christmas Song” - The Unforgettable Nat King Cole 17. “These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)” - Just One Of Those Things 18. “You're Looking At Me” - After Midnight 19. “Blame It On My Youth” - After Midnight 20. “I Wish You Love (Live)” - Jazz on Cinema with Nat King Cole (out of print) 21. “Nature Boy” - The Unforgettable Nat King Cole
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