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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1993 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
For an overview of Nat "King" Cole's years as a remarkably popular singer, this four-CD box would be difficult to top. Containing 100 songs spanning a 20-year period, this box has virtually all of Cole's hits, some of his best jazz sides, and more than its share of variety, including a humorous previously unreleased version of "Mr. Cole Won't Rock & Roll." Recommended to beginners and veteran collectors alike, its attractive booklet is also a major asset. ~ Scott Yanow

Children - Released January 1, 1993 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)


Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Blue Note Records

Between 1946 and 1950, the King Cole Trio recorded nearly 75 titles for Capitol's transcription service, songs that were then serviced to radio stations for airplay. Although Nat King Cole had formed the trio back in 1937, and the group had become immediately successful as a nightclub act, mainstream commercial success had eluded them until the mid- to late-'40s, when Cole's singing talents translated into three huge popular hits: "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," "Nature Boy," and "Mona Lisa." (The first and last of these virtually bookend the period covered on this compilation.) In 1946, the sky appeared to be the limit for this trio of swingers who summoned a dynamic, refreshing sound -- full of power and also grace, humor as well as tender emotions -- using only 88 keys and ten strings; by 1950, though, Cole had virtually disbanded the group and, at live appearances or in the studio, usually stood up from the piano and delivered his songs at the microphone. The material on Transcriptions remained virtually unheard during the past 50 years, and this three-disc set marks its first appearance on CD in America. (While several transcription collections dealing with the King Cole Trio have been issued before, those date from a different time, the late '30s and early '40s.) Cole and his trio in performance, already an intimate, playful affair, were made even more so on these recordings; transcriptions as a general rule emphasized small groups playing loose arrangements with plenty of time for solos, and usually required only a single take. The bulk of the songs are standards, not all of them recorded by Cole elsewhere, and while versions of many of his medium-level hits appear here -- "Route 66," "Too Marvelous for Words," "Honeysuckle Rose," "Body and Soul," "What Is This Thing Called Love" -- the sound and feel of them is changed somewhat. Not as ebullient as the early King Cole Trio recordings, Transcriptions exists instead as an alternate history of the late King Cole Trio, full of warmth and displaying Cole's solo and vocal skills in abundance. ~ John Bush

Lounge - Released January 1, 1992 | Blue Note Records

For those needing a reminder of Cole's very original and expert piano playing, this 18-track roundup of some of his best instrumentals should fit the bill. Part of Capitol's three-volume series of Cole's classic trio sides (the other two cover the vocals), The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio includes gem after gem from the group's 1943-1949 prime and features the classic lineup that included guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Johnny Miller. With Cole and Moore seamlessly blending lines throughout, the group forged the standard for many a piano trio to follow by way of classics like "Jumpin' at Capitol," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and "These Foolish Things." Complemented by three sides featuring Cole's later trio mates -- guitarist Irving Ashby and bassist Joe Comfort, plus guest percussionist Jack Costanza -- this instrumental best-of is essential listening for fans of Cole's vintage, pre-"Mona Lisa" material. For more of Cole's fine instrumental work from this period, be sure to also check out Capitol's horns-and-piano title Jazz Encounters. ~ Stephen Cook

Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | GRP Records

Jazz - Released April 4, 2013 | Pink Dot Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 1999 | Blue Note Records

A number of live broadcasts by the Nat King Cole Trio have turned up on European independent labels, but this is the first to appear on Capitol. In spite of the usual background noise from a night club, including a cash register, rattling glasses, and the inevitable audience conversations, the sound of these newly discovered performances is far superior to the unauthorized releases of other live dates on labels like Musidisc, Duke, and Swing House. Most of the songs covered were recorded by the trio for Capitol, but there are exceptions: "C Jam Blues," two takes of "My Sugar Is So Refined" -- which deserved a better fate -- and, surprisingly, "I Found a New Baby." Cole's warm vocals are flawless, and the trio's playing is more than up to par. Needless to say, this is an essential release for anyone who enjoys Nat "King" Cole. ~ Ken Dryden