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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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NAT "KING" COLE

At the Sands/Welcome to the Club

Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55502

 

 


1. Ballerina
2. Funny (Not Much)
3. The Continental
4. I Wish You Love
5. You Leave Me Breathless
6. Thou Swell
7. My Kinda Love
8. The Surrey with the Fringe on Top
9. Where or When
10. Miss Otis Regrets
11. Joe Turner Blues
12. Mr. Cole Won't Rock & Roll
13. Welcome to the Club
14. Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere
15. The Blues Don't Care
16. Mood Indigo
17. Baby, Won't You Please Come Home
18. The Late, Late Show
19. Avalon
20. She's Funny That Way
21. I Want a Little Girl
22. Wee Baby Blues
23. Look Out for Love
24. Madrid.

Tracks 1 to 12: Orchestra led by Antonio Morelli, arrangements by Dave Cavanaugh (except track 10, arranged by Nelson Riddle). Recorded at the Sands, July 1960

Remaining tracks backed by the Count Basie Band, but Basie was absent for contractual reasons; Gerald Wiggins plays piano. Arrangements by Dave Cavanaugh. Recorded Los Angeles June /July 1958

 

This era had so many quality vocalists; I wish we had more today! When Nat Cole sings you can distinguish all the words: even that is amazing compared to today's "pop", where the majority of the singers get through a whole track without a word you can recognise!

That's not the end of it either; he sings perfectly in tune throughout in his very pleasant easy style. He is also a superb pianist as he demonstrates on Where or When. The arrangements by Dave Cavanaugh are a perfect demonstration of the art of writing backings for a big band, backing a vocalist, and the orchestra assembled by Antonio Morelli is just perfect. The tune selection is what you would expect from a singer of this quality.

Mr. Cole Won't Rock & Roll struck a chord with me.

The Welcome to the Club album has the magnificent Count Basie Band providing the backing. Despite its title, this is a studio album. The mixing is very strange on some tracks, Nat is only on one channel but the band is on both! The band is as superb as you would expect: they were the total masters of the big-band sound and the lead alto playing by Marshall Royal makes the saxophone section immediately recognisable.

The sleeve note by Martha Allen is critical of Nat's performance, because it is not in the style of Jimmy Rushing or Joe Williams, a criticism I don't understand. This is an album of Nat King Cole and the job of the Basie Band, magnificent as it is, is to back the singer. To think that Nat is going to change his style to suit the band is something that would never happen. I have directed several big bands, backing singers, and always been made fully aware that the music is there to accompany the singer! A further critique of the album in the sleeve-note is the song selection, which to my mind is as good as that on the first part of the album.

The only fault with this album is the mixing, which is very strange. To my mind it is a perfect album to showcase the superb singing of Nat "King" Cole and the excellent musicianship of the Count Basie Band, probably the greatest big band of all times.

I recommend this record without reservation despite the mixing problems.

Don Mather



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