To be honest, the king doesn't swing all that hard on this compilation of 18 numbers. It's suave swing, perhaps, often with orchestration, and sometimes so slow and romantic that you wouldn't associate it with swing unless it was on a collection titled The King Swings. Nonetheless, it's a quality assortment of numbers not only by Cole solo, but also a couple by the King Cole Trio, and three credited to the Count Basie Orchestra that featured Cole on vocals (and generally have more big-band verve than the rest of the program). The King Cole Trio's "But She's My Buddy's Chick," contrary to much of the disc, illustrates how he could skirt close to jump blues; a vocal version of the classic "Caravan," done so often as an instrumental, is another highlight. It's hard to see how ballads like "Blue and Sentimental" and "You're My Thrill" classify as swing except as a marketing tool to comply with the title of this anthology, though that doesn't detract from their quality. In the end, it's a rather uneasily grouped bunch of tunes, and probably one that will pick up the random Cole buyer more than the committed Cole fan. Also, it would help those without full Cole libraries to have recording or release dates in the liner notes (none are provided).
All Music Guide
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Mention the term swing to five different people and you may get five different responses.
A twenty-something might envision Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or one of the other nouveau-swing outfits of the moment. Your World War II veteran dad or granddad will think Goodman or Basie. In the '60s, there was "Swinging London" and the mohair-and-pinky-ring crowd in Las Vegas. Then, there's Hugh Hefner in his ascot and smoking jacket, pipe in hand, with a busty blonde on either arm. All define Swing for different people.
We thought it might be fun to hear Nat Cole take a musical trip through the wonderful land of Swing, in all its permutations. After all, Nat came of musical age smack in the middle of the Swing Era. As a kid, he stood in wonder outside Chicago's Grand Terrace ballroom to listen to his idol, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and his big band swinging the night away, dreaming of the day he, little Nathaniel Coles would play piano for big audiences too.
Nat's career really began to take shape with the formation of The King Cole Trio, at first known as the Solid Swingsters, with himself on piano, Oscar Moore on guitar and, first, Wesley Prince and, later, Johnny Miller on bass. The little combo straddled the line between the Swing of its day and the modern jazz lurking right around the corner. Then, once the public discovered Nat's singing voice, an American icon was born.
As an example of the early trio's swinging sound, we've chosen Sy Oliver's But She's My Buddy's Chick. Oliver was a top arranger and songwriter for successful bandleaders like Jimmie Lunceford and Tommy Dorsey. His co-writer was Cholly Atkins of the famed tap dance act Coles and Atkins. We also include this later version of Nat's trio classic, Sweet Lorraine, which he originally did in tribute to Fatha Hines.
Another small combo of the period was Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, whose Azwe-Te Nat performs here with the great George Shearing taking over at the keyboard. Speaking of piano, Duke Ellington referred to himself as "the piano player" in his band. He was, of course, so much more. He wrote such great hit songs as Don't Get Around Much Anymore, introduced by Ellington vocalist Al Hibbler. One of the most popular female band singers was Ella Fitzgerald, whose Rough Ridin' Nat takes care of here. Tangerine was a Swing classic by the Jimmy Dorsey band, duet vocal by Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell.
The Swing Era wasn't only about jumping mayhem. Those jitterbugs had to take a break once in a while so they could slow things down for a little romance on or off the dance floor. One of the era's favorite romantic tunes was Until The Real Thing Comes Along, as sung by Pha Terrell with Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy. Billie Holiday sang briefly with Count Basie, but the grind of one-nighters, traveling on a bus with a bunch of crazy musicians proved too much and she went on to a career as a Swing Era headliner with ballads like Crazy She Calls Me and You're My Thrill.
And then there's Basie himself. The Count swung from Kansas City to Harlem to Las Vegas, playing for four generations of finger-popping dancers with happy feet. With the original trio, Nat sings Blue And Sentimental, originally a feature for Basie tenor saxophonist Herschel Evans. Like Bill Basie, Nat Cole was one of the great all-time jazz pianists, as you can hear on If I Could Be With You, a Basie hit with a vocal by Helen Humes.
For an album with the Basie band, minus the Count (blame those ever-popular "contractual reasons"), Nat recorded this up-tempo version of Want A Little Girl, popularized by Basie vocalist Jimmy Rushing, along with a pair of newer tunes, The Late, Late Snow and Welcome To The Club, the LP's title song.
We've included a couple of swinging items, rarely heardtoday, which were first associated with Nat: Destination Moon, later recorded by Dinah Washington, and Something Happens To Me, also done in a fine version by Jesse Belvin. Nat was one of the first, if not the first, to record Sammy Cahn and Gene DePaul's swinging 1954 hit Teach Me Tonight.
As the definition of Swing evolved over the years, so did Nat King Cole, one of the idiom's greatest proponents. And, as this set shows, Nat was swinging when he started and he was swinging right up until his last blue note.