3/17/16 – Happy birthday Nat King Cole!
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, especially if you listen to my show on Jazz 90.1; Nat King Cole is the biggest musical influence on my life, and I would like to wish him a very happy 97th birthday.
I was first exposed to jazz through my dad. He has a huge CD collection that I continue to pilfer from, and he was always playing jazz. But my first jazz album was Jumpin’ At Capitol, a collection of the Nat King Cole Trio’s Capitol Records singles. I can remember it clear as day. My mom was playing it in her car, by the student drop off/ pick up loop by the side of Barker Road Middle School, on top of the huge hill behind the school. Mrs. Lightholder was my 6th grade teacher, my current teacher at the time, and her car (a tan-gold CR-V) was parked in front of us. I then asked my mom if I could borrow the CD.
Off that album, the title track was the first instrumental song that “I got,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right” was the first fun jazz song “I got,” and “Sweet Lorraine” and “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” were the first love songs “I got,” in so far as a 6th grader can get a love song.
I stopped listening for a while, but then my passion for Cole arose again in high school. I’m sure that everyone who went to high school with me remembers my Nat Cole phase that just wouldn’t let up. It was about this time that I began playing bass trombone, getting into jazz band, and enjoying listening to and playing music. I found a niche for myself, and a passion that keeps my fire burning.
Along with my other musical love, The Persuasions, Nat King Cole defined how I thought about music, and still does. Smooth Great American Songbook melodies with an ever so slight blues touch, simple and masterly crafted piano solos, and song forms that I still use. To this day, I can’t play a jazz standard without singing the words in my head (to my detriment or benefit, I don’t know), and everything I write I try to make singable.
I was incredibly unfortunate to go to SUNY Oswego. While finishing my music major, I decided to put on a senior recital, with a full rhythm section, six horns, and two singers. Gratefulness is an understatement for my feelings toward my advisors, mentors, and friends Eric Schmitz and Danny Ziemann, who allowed me to take complete ownership of my recital. I decided to do a whole Nat King Cole tribute concert, on the double bass.
I did many songs off of Jumpin’, (“Straighten Up,” “Sentimental Reasons,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” and “All For You”), and most of them I played the melody or shared in it. Every time I played, I could hear Nat singing, and I hope my singers did too.
It was not a perfect show, but I am so proud… And I hope Nat is too.
Happy 97th, Mr. Cole, and thank you for everything.