Freddy Cole – He Was The King – HighNote HCD 7286 58:18 ****:
A heartfelt tribute from the most reliant interpreter of the Nat Cole songbook.
(Freddy Cole – vocals, piano (tracks 6,7); Houston Person – tenor saxophone (tracks 1,2,5,8); John di Martino – piano (tracks 4,9,11); Randy Napoleon – guitar; Harry Allen – tenor saxophone; Joe Magnarelli – trumpet; Josh Brown – trombone; Elias Bailey – bass; Quentin Baxter – drums)
Lineage is an uncertain commodity when it comes to the arts, sports, and business. The success of one individual in a particular generation does not guarantee that either siblings or progeny will carry that gene along with them. In the case of the Cole clan, it has more or less worked out. Freddy Cole is the younger brother of Nat and the uncle of Natalie and while Nat may have been the most successful, both Freddy and Natalie made prominent names for themselves in their own right. In terms of longevity, Freddy is the last of this family still in show business, and at eighty-five, pays homage to his older brother with the album He Was The King.
In deciding to tackle this project, Cole surrounded himself with a group of stellar musicians who undoubtedly appreciated Nat’s work, and secondly Freddy chose songs that were associated with the popular song phase of Nat’s career, rather than the jazz period, which probably reached its apogee in 1957 with the After Midnight sessions. If there is a short-coming to this project, it probably rests on that decision.
Freddy Cole is a supple and elegant interpreter of Nat’s song book, yet he starts the proceedings with a tune that Nat never recorded: “Easy To Remember”. As Will Friedwald states in the liner notes Freddie did so “as a testimonial to his brother”. As for the other tracks, not all of them stand out. But here are several that are noteworthy: “Exactly Like You” is a delightful swinger, which has a robust solo from tenor man Houston Person.
There are a couple of numbers from Nat’s early days as a jazz pianist and singer such as “Sweet Lorraine” and “It’s Only A Paper Moon”. Both of these are done with panache and concise storytelling, as well as Freddy’s fleet-fingered piano playing on “Lorraine”. Probably Nat’s most iconic popular hit was “Mona Lisa”. Freddy’s version includes the first verse which Nat never used, which adds a certain melancholy to his version, since he only runs through the full melody once.
A heartfelt tribute offered by the most reliant performer of the Nat Cole songbook.
TrackList: Easy To Remember; Exactly Like You; Funny (Not Much); That’s My Girl; Maybe It’s Because I Love You So Much; The Best Man; Sweet Lorraine; Love Is The Thing; Jet; Mona Lisa; It’s Only A Paper Moon; He Was The King