Friday, January 4, 2013

Nat King Cole After Midnight 1957

There are quite a few great Nat King Cole records, but this one from 1957 might be the most indispensable.

A consummate singer, smooth, yet still deeply emotive, Cole became a pop/jazz icon, and had quite a few hits in the 50's and early 60's until his untimely death in 1965.

His "pop" vocal records with Nelson Riddle, Billy May, and many other popular arrangers of the day were his bread and butter during the last fifteen years of his life.

But he got his start as a piano player in the forties in the fairly unique piano, bass and guitar King Cole Trio. His early instrumental work is highly regarded, and he only began singing on record in the early 50's.

This little gem is Cole at piano with bass, guitar, and drums, plus four different soloists rotating through the set on sax, trumpet, trombone, and violin. The small band and clean recording set up Cole's rich vocals and sweet piano styling. The band is both hot and relaxed in a truly magical way.

The song list is notable for its quality. Just You, Just Me, Sweet Lorraine, Caravan, It's Only a Paper Moon, Blame It on My Youth, and Route 66 all receive stellar treatments, but everything is great. The bonus tracks released on the 1987 "Complete Sessions" CD are equal to the ones originally released. How anyone could leave I Was A Little Too Lonely and Two Loves Have I off of the original record is hard to imagine.

I like his singing with orchestra, but this is a unique session for Cole, and a wonderful display of all of his considerable talents. Not to be missed.

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