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My dear Nat King Cole...

By Abigail Church |

When Gregory Porter pays tribute to his master Nat King Cole...

It’s always good when the genius of an artist is rekindled. With this luxurious new album, Gregory Porter puts his body and soul into the repertoire of one of his idols: Nat King Cole. A unique musician who slalomed between pure jazz and easy listening, a virtuosic pianist, an innovator with a great finesse, and, clearly, a fascinating singer/crooner equipped with a velvet voice, profound and romantic, recognizable by all, Nat King Cole is in good hands here! He has one of the most impressive soul’n’jazz voices of the past few years. Above all, Gregory Porter has a much richer and more complex soul to that of his peers, with all due respect!

For Nat King Cole is a common theme in the life of the Californian forty-year-old who knows every nook and cranny of the Great Black Music. "He was one of a kind. He left such great music - such beautiful things to listen to that you can’t help but be influenced by that extraordinary timbre, style, and ultimate cool… I wrote this little song when I was five and put it on a tape and played it for my mother when she came home from work. She said ‘Boy you sound just like Nat King Cole’! I remember thinking how strange that name was, going through her records, and first seeing his image: this elegant, handsome, strong man sitting by the fire, looking like somebody’s daddy. Then I put the vinyl on the player and out of those speakers came that voice, that nurturing sound. It filled a void in me. My father wasn’t in my life; he wasn’t raising me; he wasn’t showing any interest in me. So Nat’s words, ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again’ - all of these life lessons and words of wisdom were like fatherly advice. They were coming out of the speakers like Nat was singing those words just to me. I would listen to his albums and imagine that Nat was my father."

This love for Nat King Cole’s music pushed him to adopt the jazzman as a substitute father! Furthermore, after having played in the musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, Porter decided to take his relationship to Cole to the stage by writing Nat King Cole & Me, a largely autobiographical musical that showed for the first time in 2004. "In a certain way I tried to find my father. I wrote it after my father died. This spectacle, for which I composed most of the music, speaks about Nat King Cole. But mostly in the way in which I got closer to his music because of the absence of my father. It was like a kind of therapy that I prescribed to myself. Almost 800 people came to watch each night."

With help from the arranger Vince Mendoza and with a group composed of the pianist Christian Sands, the bassist Reuben Rogers and the drummer Ulysses Owens, Gregory Porter will satisfy the needs of fans of the singer/pianist who died in 1965.

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