January 20, 2011

Music Is...Nat King Cole

He's got to be one of the best jazz crooners ever. This man had a voice smooth as butta. Not buttER, buttA. But seriously, all jokes aside, he was a phenomenal singer in his own right, has been and is an influence for musicians/singers in general. Regardless if he was performing solo or not, what you hear and see is the talent. He is an artists with a musical resume that makes it difficult for anyone to describe his career justly and completely. We'll have to see where this one goes.

To say the least, when you speak about a musician such as himself, you begin to venture into an era before the internet, before cell phones. An era with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and so many other singers. When music was stripped down to its purist form. A time before networks like MTV, BET, VH1, FUSE, CENTRIC, TV ONE and others  became apart of mainstream television the way they are. Unlike the major sponsorship that nearly all television programs receive nowadays, "The Nat King Cole Show", created in 1956, aired on NBC-TV in New York and all national sponsorship was dismissed completely, although the local company Regional Beer sponsored the show. Though it lasted only a year, Cole became the first African American to host a musical variety show. An interesting statement he maid regarding that situation shortly after, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark." Going further back in time, "King" was born Nathaniel Adams Coles to three brothers Eddie, Ike and Freddie, also a half sister Joyce Cole in Montgomery, Alabama in 1919. His performance career began in his teens, his brother Eddie joining soon thereafter giving rise to their first recording. As a pianist in the national tour of Eubie Blake's revue "Shuffle Along", the show unexpectedly failed in Long Beach California. He stayed and later formed a trio called the King Cole Swingers, or I've also read it as The King Cole Trio. In the 1950's double bass player Wesley Prince left the group and was ultimately replaced by Charlie Harris, also a talented double bassist. The group signed to the fresh Capitol Records in the early 1940's and the record sales are said to have been a major source of revenue for the company. 
When I think about it, I've heard "King" so much to the extent that I just put two and two together, and figured that it was truly his middle name. I'm not sure how many people out there knew, but "King" was a nickname given to him while performing at one of the clubs he was known to attend. Nat King Cole, alone and with the Trio, recorded numerous songs, many of which I am very unfamiliar with. I can gladly say I know a few however:
I'm In The Mood For Love (cover)
(Get Your Kicks On) Rout 66
Mona Lisa
When I Fall In Love
Nature Boy
Dear Lonely Hearts
Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer
A Woman Understands (just heard that one today, but I liked it)

I know this is a very short post as oppose to all that can be said for this talented individual. As I mentioned earlier, "King" was within an unrivaled era of great music, big band, swing, all that good stuff. Knowing the times in which he arose, there is no doubt of the many racial challenges he encountered. One instance in Los Angeles, after purchasing a home in the Hancock Park neighborhood where segregation was still very strong, a burning cross was placed on his front lawn. Property-owners association members told him they didn't want any undesirables moving in that area. He then replied, "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain." Despite the opposition, Nat continued to do what he did, seemingly with ease. I tell you, it makes no sense for anyone to sound as good as he did. He had such a smooth baritone layer to his voice that he could have sang the phone-book and made a hit.

He is truly Unforgettable.

The Very Best Of Nat King Cole
Unforgettable as a solo digital remaster
The World Of Nat King Cole  
Unforgettable as a duet digital remaster w/ Natalie Cole

The Complete Capital Recordings of The Nat King Cole Trio
For the road...

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