Nat King Cole & Me

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Nat King Cole & Me
Nat King Cole & Me - cover.jpg
Studio album by Gregory Porter
Released October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
Recorded 2017
Studio AIR Studios, London, England
Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, California
Esplande Studios, New Orleans, Louisiana
Genre
Length 49:34
Label
Gregory Porter chronology
Take Me to the Alley
(2016)Take Me to the Alley2016
Nat King Cole & Me
(2017)

Nat King Cole & Me is the fifth studio album by American jazz musician and singer Gregory Porter. He sings songs that were either recorded by or inspired by Nat King Cole. It was released by Blue Note Records and Decca Records on October 27, 2017. Porter has cited Cole as an important part of his childhoold and an influence on his career.

Jeff Simon of The Buffalo News compared the album to Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell. Other reviewers felt Porter's voice was stronger on big band songs rather than the slower numbers.

Background[edit]

Porter became aware of the music of Nat King Cole while growing up in Bakersfield, California, during the 1970s, where his mother was a Baptist minister, and in a household from which his father was absent.[1][2][3] When he was five or six, Porter wrote a song that he performed for his mother. She told him, "Boy, you sound like Nat King Cole."[4] Her response prompted him to search through his mother's record collection, where he found some of Cole's recordings, and began listening to them.[4]

He has said that Cole's music was a big part of his childhood: "I was listening to Nat as a child, without my father around, these songs they hit me".[5] He has described the album as a personal tribute to Cole, whose "words were the life lessons, words of wisdom and fatherly advice I needed".[6] He has also spoken of the important role Cole played in the African American community, and to his own family: "My mother and grandmother were very proud of him. He was the first black man to have a television show. His image was beautiful, his style was beautiful. This was a different image of a black man."[2]

Porter's musical breakthrough occurred following his appearance in the 2004 semi-autobiographical musical, Nat King Cole & Me,[7] a show that he wrote, and that enjoyed an eight-week run in Colorado.[4] He first had the idea of recording a tribute album to Cole around 25 years before the project eventually came to fruition, but began to seriously plan its recording a year or so before its release. He has said that he mentioned his wish to record an album of Nat King Cole songs to Cole's daughter, Natalie when the pair met at a concert she was giving at London's Royal Albert Hall, and she encouraged him to do it.[5]

The choice of songs, and arrangement took four to six months to complete: "Song choices were the most difficult because Nat King Cole has such a huge discography that we really had to narrow it down and choose. Another challenge was containing my emotions, literally this was just a dream come true, it felt so good." Among the songs chosen for the album were "I Wonder Who My Daddy Is", a song recorded by Cole's brother, Freddy, and "When Love Was King", a song that previously appeared on Porter's 2013 album, Liquid Spirit, and that Porter says was strongly influenced by Nat King Cole: "I literally heard his voice in my head". The album was recorded at AIR Studios in London, England, with arrangement done by Vince Mendoza. The album features a 70 piece orchestra, and is the first time Porter recorded with a full orchestra.[5][6]

Following its release, Nat King Cole & Me entered the UK Albums Chart at number three, Porter's highest debut entry in the UK charts, and his third album to reach the UK top 10.[8] Tracks from the album were featured on the November 5 edition of Music 'til Midnight, a BBC Radio 2 easy listening programme presented by Moira Stuart.[1]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic71/100[9]
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic4/5 stars[10]
Clash Music7/10[11]
The Guardian2/5 stars[12]
Exeposé3.5/5 stars[13]
Financial Times3/5 stars[14]
NARC4/5[15]
PopMatters7/10[16]
Sunday Express3/5 stars[17]
The Telegraph4/5 stars[18]
The Times3/5 stars[19]

Giving the album three of five stars, Chris Pearson of The Times praised Nat King Cole & Me: "It took Nat King Cole half his career to graduate from small groups to string orchestras. Gregory Porter has managed it in just five albums... Some of Vince Mendoza's arrangements are so close to the originals that it's a jolt when a different voice enters."[20] Gareth Hipwell of Rolling Stone Australia gave the album a four star rating, declaring "Porter distils the wide-screen cinematic romance of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, mantling his celebrated, honeyed baritone in glistening updrafts of strings, horns and woodwind".[21] Keith Bruce of The Glasgow Herald wrote that "[Porter] sings the Cole canon superbly [but] the arrangements and production of Vince Mendoza – and the playing of a London studio ensemble – are what really lift this 12-song collection". Bruce also felt that Porter's rendition of The Christmas Song "should certainly be this Yuletide's chart-topper".[22]

The Christian Science Monitor described the album as "a sincere and heartfelt tribute to a musical father figure that only comes up a bit short because Nat King Cole was such a giant".[23] Awarding the album seven out of ten, Will Rosebury of Clash magazine wrote that Nat King Cole & Me "isn't anything groundbreaking [but] is ultimately a well produced and excellently performed tribute album".[24] Writing in The Guardian, John Lewis gave the album two of five stars, feeling that "Mendoza's cloying arrangements for a 70-piece orchestra pay homage to the string-drenched showbiz Cole with a fidelity that is largely pointless", and felt that Porter should have drawn from Cole's 1940s Capitol Records repertoire rather than choosing songs from his later career.[25] Mike Hobart of The Financial Times gave the album a three of five stars rating, suggesting that "clear diction, a powerful voice and true pitch mirror Cole and bring each song to life", but he felt Porter's voice was better suited to the big band numbers such as "L-O-V-E".[26]

Awarding three of five stars, Andy Gill of The Independent echoed other thoughts that the big band tracks were more powerful, suggesting that "Though obviously sincere and heartfelt, Gregory Porter's tribute to his greatest influence falls a touch short in some cases. His voice, while smooth and warm, lacks the silky, creamy timbre of Cole's".[27] Nate Chinen of National Public Radio wrote that Porter "gives us precise, persuasive and courtly renditions of the songs you'd most expect to see on an essential Cole playlist", and had mixed views about the choice of tracks.[7] Martin Townsend of the Sunday Express also rated the album three out of five, feeling that the quality of Porter's voice depended on the pace of the songs: "though Porter turns in breezy and rather beautiful versions of the faster, jazzier, parts of his repertoire, such as "L-O-V-E" and "Pick Yourself Up", he struggles a bit on the slow vocal elongations of "Mona Lisa" and "Smile"."[28]

Writing for The Buffalo News, Jeff Simon awarded Nat King Cole & Me three and a half stars out of five, and compared the album with Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, a project on which Mendoza was also the arranger, and that Simon calls "a magnificent disc that showed generations of female world-beating jazz singers everything they were doing wrong". Mendoza's involvement with Porter's album is something Simon believes "makes it a far more brilliant exploration of Nat "King" Cole's repertoire than anyone had any right to expect".[29]

Christopher Loudon of JazzTimes wrote "Fittingly, Porter’s long affection for Nat “King” Cole provides the foundation for his first full-length exploration of pop and jazz classics. That Porter and Cole are kindred spirits is undeniable: both warm, enthralling baritones; both blessed with tremendous, infectious charm".[30]

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Mona Lisa"4:19
2."Smile"4:18
3."Nature Boy"Eden Ahbez3:45
4."L-O-V-E"2:09
5."Quizas, Quizas, Quizas"Farres Osvaldo4:31
6."Miss Otis Regrets"Cole Porter4:31
7."Pick Yourself Up"3:12
8."When Love Was King"Gregory Porter7:44
9."The Lonely One"
4:34
10."Ballerina"2:54
11."I Wonder Who My Daddy Is"Gladys Shelley3:48
12."The Christmas Song"3:46
Deluxe edition bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
12."But Beautiful"4:33
13."Sweet Lorraine"3:36
14."For All We Know"5:33
15."The Christmas Song"
  • Mel Tormé
  • Robert Wells
3:46

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2017) Peak
position
Scottish Albums (OCC)[31] 3
UK Albums (OCC)[32] 3

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2017) Position
UK Albums (OCC)[33] 21

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Music 'til Midnight featuring Matt Monro, Henry Mancini, Tony Bennett and Gregory Porter, Moira Stuart – BBC Radio 2". BBC. November 5, 2017. Archived from the original on November 12, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Power, Ed (November 14, 2017). "Gregory Porter pays homage to his hero, Nat King Cole". The Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on November 15, 2017. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  3. ^ McGrane, Danielle (November 2, 2017). "Gregory Porter was guided by Nat King Cole". news.com.au. Archived from the original on November 4, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Porter, Gregory (November 22, 2017). "Crooner, inspiration, father I never had: Gregory Porter on his hero Nat King Cole". The Guardian. Archived from the original on November 22, 2017. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Gregory Porter on Nat King Cole & Me: "This is not imitation, it's a tribute"". Official Charts Company. October 25, 2017. Archived from the original on November 12, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Garner, George (September 1, 2017). "Gregory Porter announces new album Nat King Cole & Me". Music Week. Archived from the original on September 18, 2017. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Review: Gregory Porter, 'Nat King Cole & Me'". NPR. Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  8. ^ McIntyre, Hugh (November 8, 2017). "Stereophonics, Gregory Porter And Chris Brown See Their New Albums Hit The U.K. Top 10". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 8, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  9. ^ "NAT KING COLE & ME by Gregory Porter". Metacritic. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  10. ^ Collar, Matt. "Gregory Porter Nat King Cole & Me". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  11. ^ Rosebury, Will (13 November 2017). "Gregory Porter - Nat King Cole And Me". Clash Music. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  12. ^ Lewis, John (26 October 2017). "Gregory Porter: Nat King Cole and Me review – string-drenched, showbiz homage". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  13. ^ Edwards, Chloë (8 November 2017). "Album Review: Gregory Porter – Nat King Cole & Me". Exeposé. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  14. ^ Hobart, Mike (October 27, 2017). "Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me — 'theatrical flourish'". The Financial Times. Archived from the original on October 29, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  15. ^ FOWLER, JOE (26 October 2017). "ALBUM REVIEW: GREGORY PORTER – NAT KING COLE AND ME". NARC Magazine. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  16. ^ JURIK, ANDY (13 November 2017). "Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (review)". PopMatters. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  17. ^ Townsend, Martin (November 5, 2017). "New CD releases review: Lee Ann Womack, Gregory Porter and more". Sunday Express. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  18. ^ McCormick, Neil (6 May 2016). "Gregory Porter, Take Me to the Alley, review - the sweet sound of an old soul". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  19. ^ Pearson, Chris (20 October 2017). "Jazz review: Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole and Me". The Times. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  20. ^ Pearson, Chris (October 20, 2017). "Jazz review: Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole and Me". The Times. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  21. ^ Hipwell, Gareth (October 26, 2017). "Rolling Stone Australia – Album Review: Gregory Porter – Nat King Cole & Me". Rolling Stone Australia. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  22. ^ Bruce, Keith (11 November 2017). "Review: Gregory Porter, Nat "King" Cole & Me". HeraldScotland. Archived from the original on November 12, 2017. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  23. ^ "Top Picks: 'Gregory Porter: Nat 'King' Cole & Me,' 'Survival in the Skies,' and more". Christian Science Monitor. November 17, 2017. Archived from the original on November 18, 2017. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  24. ^ Rosebury, Tim (November 13, 2017). "Gregory Porter – Nat King Cole And Me". Clash magazine. Archived from the original on November 13, 2017. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  25. ^ Lewis, John (October 26, 2017). "Gregory Porter: Nat King Cole and Me review – string-drenched, showbiz homage". The Guardian. Archived from the original on November 1, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  26. ^ Hobart, Mike (October 27, 2017). "Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me — 'theatrical flourish'". The Financial Times. Archived from the original on October 29, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  27. ^ "Album reviews: Joe Henry, Gregory Porter, Bootsy Collins and more". The Independent. October 26, 2017. Archived from the original on October 26, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  28. ^ Townsend, Martin (November 5, 2017). "New CD releases review: Lee Ann Womack, Gregory Porter and more". Sunday Express. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  29. ^ Simon, Jeff (24 November 2017). "A thoroughly surprising take on Nat 'King' Cole". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  30. ^ Loudon, Christopher (16 November 2017). "Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (Blue Note)". JazzTimes. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  31. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  32. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  33. ^ White, Jack (January 3, 2018). "The Top 40 biggest albums of 2017 on the Official Chart". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 3, 2018.