AFRS Show 15 April 26, 1947 - Guest: Earl Hines
1. Introduction: Straighten Up and Fly Right
2. Across the Alley from the Alamo
3. I'm in the Mood for Love
5. Earl Hines Medley: You Can Depend on Me/Everything Depends on You/Rosetta
6. Medley: Tangerine /Yes Indeed
7. On the Sunny Side of the Street
8. Closer: Crazy Rhythm
AFRS Show 17 June 14,, 1947 - Guest: Cab Calloway
9. Introduction: Straighten Up and Fly Right
10. It Takes Time
11. Crazy Rhythm
12. Dreams Are a Dime a Dozen
13. I Got a Gal Named Nettie
15. Somebody Loves Me
16. Closer: I Found a New Baby
AFRS Show 19 August 30, 1947 - Guest: Johnny Mercer & Woody Herman
17. Introduction: Straighten Up and Fly Right
18. Naughty Angeline
19. For Sentimental Reasons
20. I Miss You So
21. Save the Bones for Henry Jones
22. Aunt Hettie
23. I Know That You Know
24. Closer: After You've Gone
AFRS Show 21 March 29, 1947 - Guests: The Dinning Sisters
25. Introduction: Straighten Up and Fly Right
26. You're the Cream in My Coffee
27. Prelude in C-Sharp Minor
28. I Want to Thank Your Folks
29. My Adobe Hacienda
30. I Can't Believe It Was All Make-Believe
31. I Know That You Know
32. Closer: Crazy Rhythm
AFRS Show 23 August 23, 1947 - Guest: Stan Kenton
33. Introduction: Straighten Up and Fly Right
35. You're the Cream in My Coffee
36. Ain't You Ever Coming Back
37. Variations on Artistry in Rhythm
38. This Is My Night to Dream
39. An Apple Blossom Wedding
40. Closer: I Know That You Know
Nat King Cole - Piano, vocals
Oscar Moore - Guitar, vocals
Johnny Miller - Bass, vocals
Earl Hines - Piano (track 5)
Cab Calloway - Vocals (track 13)
Johnny Mercer - Vocals (track 21)
Woody Herman - Clarinet, vocals (track 22)
The Dinning Sisters - Vocals (track 29)
Stan Kenton - Piano (track 37)
These five American Forces Radio Service rebroadcasts of the NBC radio show titled `King Cole Trio Time' are from a time when Cole could not find sponsors and underwrote the show himself. Such discrimination followed him when he went into television a few years later, but in the end he succeeded and paved the way for other black artists in that medium. It was also a time when he began to reach for a more "mainstream" audience, placing more emphasis on his singing and less on the trio's jazz output, much to the chagrin of those who relished the latter. On this disc the trio is mainly backing for Cole's vocals.
For Cole this changing emphasis was a mixed blessing, however. Certainly over the next decade and a half he had much success artistically and financially with his vocalizing for himself and Capitol records, their iconic circular building in L.A. being known as "the House that Nat built". But it also contributed to his early demise as he mistakenly believed that the cigarettes he smoked (four packs a day) were largely responsible for his silky voice, and, in fact, he would smoke several in rapid succession prior to recording. All of that resulted in the lung cancer that ended his life prematurely in February of 1965.
At the time these shows were being made, none of that was known, of course. Each of them features a guest, although such were hardly necessary as Cole and his cohorts were quite capable of carrying the whole thing themselves, and the guest in each case did not have a large part to play-usually one number solo and another shared with Cole. But the belief undoubtedly was that guests would draw an audience and perhaps some sponsorship. The format for each show was largely the same-the opening theme being Cole's own composition from a few years earlier, Straighten Up and Fly Right, followed by that show's selections, ostensibly picked by that show's guest. It should be added that these shows were recorded in a studio, the applause being dubbed in.
Of the five guests, two are piano players-Earl Hines and Stan Kenton-providing nice contrasts in piano styles. Hines' playing is more "florid" than Cole's, containing lots of runs, whereas Cole's is sparer. Kenton we usually think of in terms of the band he led, perhaps, rather than as a solo player, and interestingly he was influenced somewhat by the playing of Hines. However, it was the band-and a concert orchestra rather than a dance band-that came to mind with the mention of Kenton, both in the forties and later. This is illustrated well as he is featured playing variations on his own tune Artistry in Rhythm, ably accompanied by the trio's rhythm with some breathtaking work by bassist Johnny Miller.
The other shows' guests are a mixture. Cab Calloway was noted as a front man for the orchestra bearing his name and for his frenetic improvisational scatting, so here he does that type of vocal, a throwaway titled I Got a Gal Named Nettie. A curious pair of guests appears on another show: Johnny Mercer and Woody Herman. Mercer joins with Cole and the trio in the novelty song Save the Bones for Henry Jones, as does Herman in another song that deserves its oblivion, Aunt Hettie. Herman also plays a chorus on clarinet in this number, but strangely his name is never mentioned by the announcer or Cole.
Finally there are the Dinning Sisters, a vocal trio in the mould of the Andrews and Boswell sisters but who did not quite reach their calibre and whose name did not last as long as these others'. They perform one of their songs that made it to the top ten of the Hit Parade in 1947, My Adobe Hacienda.
Almost all of the other selections from these shows feature Cole's singing, and a very pleasant voice he had. It is one that never grates or becomes tiresome but is both smooth and silken, quite soothing in character. About half of these are familiar songs, the other half being B-side quality or outright throwaways. But for me the trio's jazz renditions are more interesting. These are rather few in number, usually only one during the broadcast's programme and then the closer of each. A couple stand out as they take risks but both succeed. Cole attempts a jazz interpretation of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-Sharp Minor (not requested by the Dinning Sisters, by the way) and to my ears it comes off quite well, starting off somewhat conventionally and then moving into various improvisational passages. The other contains a nice medley of tempos on I Know That You Know and there is some superb guitar playing in one chorus.
The other instrumental selections serve to remind us of the loss to jazz of the trio, which broke up shortly after these shows as the other musicians, seeing the direction Cole was heading, moved on. So we can relish even more the trio's renditions of On the Sunny Side of the Street, Crazy Rhythm, Somebody Loves Me, and the other instrumentals.
This disc will definitely appeal to the Nat King Cole fans, whose numbers are legion, and also to old-time-radio buffs, who are also quite numerous.