New album from Grammy-winning vocalist honors Nat King Cole's legacy
Brooklyn-based jazz and soul singer Gregory Porter has earned comparisons to such music greats as Joe Williams, Marvin Gaye, and without doubt his musical idol, Nat King Cole.
The influence of Nat King Cole on Porter's life and music runs deep, a through-line that reaches back into some of his earliest childhood memories, and culminates in the release of the two-time Grammy-winning vocalist's stunning fifth studio album Nat King Cole & Me, a heartfelt tribute to the legendary singer, pianist, and Capitol recording artist.
"He was one of a kind. He left such great music — such beautiful things to listen to that you can't help but be influenced by that extraordinary timbre, style, and ultimate cool," Porter enthuses.
That nurturing sound filled a void, Porter says.
"My father wasn't in my life; he wasn't raising me; he wasn't showing any interest in me. So Nat's words, ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again' — all of these life lessons and words of wisdom were like fatherly advice. They were coming out of the speakers like Nat was singing those words just to me. I would listen to his albums and imagine that Nat was my father." Porter later dramatized his deep appreciation for Cole in a semi-autobiographical musical, "Nat King Cole & Me," which premiered in 2004.
That musical underpins Porter's third Blue Note Records release, Nat King Cole & Me, the follow-up to his Grammy-winning albums Liquid Spirit (2013) and Take Me to the Alley (2016), which established Porter as his generation's most soulful jazz singer-songwriter.
With the help of six-time Grammy-winning arranger Vince Mendoza and a core band featuring pianist Christian Sands, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Ulysses Owens, Porter revisits some of Cole's most cherished classics such as "Smile," "L-O-V-E," "Nature Boy," and "The Christmas Song." Mendoza's lush arrangements, animated by the London Studio Orchestra, cushion Porter's brawny crooning to astonishing widescreen effect.
1. Mona Lisa (Ray Evans/Jay Livingston) 2. Smile (Charlie Chaplin/John Turner/Geoffrey Parsons) 3. Nature Boy (Eden Ahbez) 4. L-O-V-E (Milt Gabler/Bert Kaempfert) 5. Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (Farres Osvaldo) 6. Miss Otis Regrets (Cole Porter) 7. Pick Yourself Up (Jerome Kern/ Dorothy Fields) 8. When Love Was King (Gregory Porter) 9. The Lonely One (Lenny Hambro/ Roberto Heller) 10. Ballerina (Carl Sigman/ Bob Russell) 11. I Wonder Who My Daddy Is (Gladys Shelley) 12. But Beautiful** (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen) 13. Sweet Lorraine** (Cliff Burwell/Mitchell Parish) 14. For All We Know** (J. Fred Coots/Sam M. Lewis) 15. The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé/Robert Wells)