Rockin, Boppin and Blues features Nat King Cole's Capitol recordings that were not exclusively focused on the popular romantic music, which often overshadowed the majority of these jazz, blues, and up-tempo tunes. These 18 tracks include "Route 66," "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Joe Turner Blues" (live), "Send For Me," and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You." Cole was an early inspiration for Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, and Charles Brown amongst numerous others in the R&B and early rock era. While that influence is unmistakable when listening to this collection, Cole recorded his true feelings about the genre on a seven-minute live version of "Mr Cole Won't Rock and Roll" which closes out this set. For a good companion compilation featuring his romantic sides, pick up Songs From the Heart also a part of the Capitol Songbook Series.
All Music Guide
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Earlier this year, the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame avarded a posthumous plaque to Nat King Cole, named him one of the major early influences on rock'n'roll.
That award may have surprised those who only know Nat Cole as the great singer of gorgeous love ballads awash in the lush strings of Nelson Riddle or Gordon Jenkins. But, to those whose listening habits include the music of the '40s, the Cole/rock 'n' roll connection might make a little more sense. During the World War II era and immediately afterwards, the King Cole Trio was in direct competition with the master of jump blues, Louis Jordan, himself often named the grandfather of rock 'n' roll. Like Jordan and His Tympany Five, the King Cole Trio often performed the kind of jumping novelty tunes later associated with rock 'n' roll. Unlike Jordan, Nat's trio jumped without the need for drums or a horn section, utilizing only Oscar Moore's guitar, Johnny Miller's bass and Nat's piano.
The little combo also performed ballads of unparalleled beauty with only this instrumentation, perfecting their ingenious arrangements, night after night, in theaters and cocktail lounges across the land before committing them to wax. This was the Nat Cole the world ultimately fell in love with. But as a root of rock 'n' roll, Nat tends to be overlooked, even though his jumping hits became part of the national collective consciousness and prepared the way for what was to come. Straighten Up And Fly Right, their first big one to cross over to the pop market, swings and riffs like mad, while the group chants, in a manner which can only be described as rocking.
Bobby Trotip's (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, talk about your rock inspiration, has been revived by acts like Chuck Berry and Asleep At The Wheel. Troup also penned Nat's blues ballad Baby, Baby All The Time, heard here, as well as Little Richard's The Girl Can't Help It. When I was six years old, my father brought home a 78 of The Frim Fram Sauce, which I played until it wore out, paving the way for this rock 'n' roll fan.
These were the kinds of jukebox items that inspired the likes of Berry and Ray Charles, both of whom credit Cole as primary influences. Although he's never mentioned it, one can even hear traces of Nat's characteristic warmth in the singing of another piano playing vocalist, Fats Domino. Cocktail bluesmen Charles Brown and Floyd Dixon took Nat's velvety approach and added a slightly bluesier touch, even recording with Cole's former trio mates on occasion. And then, in 1957, smack in the middle of the rock 'n' roll era, Cole had himself a smash teen fave with Send For Me.
Another thing to bear in mind is that, even if Nat Cole had never opened his mouth and crooned into a microphone, he'd still be remembered as one of the finest jazz pianists of his time. Just listen to his playing on the trio sides. Nat idolized Earl Hines and came up with his own unique style which, when combined with the advanced harmonic ideas of guitarist Oscar Moore and the unshakable tempo of bassist Johnny Miller, showed pianists to follow what rhythmic freedom was all about.
Check out the feathery speed of 1945's I'm An Errand Boy For Rhythm. Nat and crew are right there on the cutting edge with their West Coast version of what Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were doing in New York. Ditto Ooh, Kickeroonie, their take-off on Slim Gaillard's particular version of the English language.
All great jazzmen are able to play the blues with authenticity, and Nat and Oscar reveal their command of the idiom on Chant Of The Blues and the instrumentals, Blues In My Shower and Easy Listening Blues.
When Nat tried his hand at acting, portraying W.C. Handy in the great songwriter's bio-pic, he was able to reach way back to the beginning of the written down blues. Here, Nat gives us Handy's famous Beale Street Blues, as well as Kansas City shouter Big Joe Turner's Wee Baby Blues. Yes, he rocked, he bopped and he played and sang the blues, too. We think old King Cole might very well have been pulling our leg when he sang on this last track, Mr. Cole Won't Rock & Roll. Billy Vera, 2000.