Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook

Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook is a Jazz concert at the 92nd Street Y on Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 8pm.

Cole’s brother Freddy Cole sings “Unforgettable,” “Mona Lisa” and more Cole classics.

The band is directed by pianist Bill Charlap with Houston Person on tenor sax, Warren Vaché on cornet, and Randy Napoleon on guitar. The rhythm section is Elias Bailey on bass and Quentin E. Baxter on drums.

Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable” on television

About Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1919. He died in Santa Monica in 1965.

Cole was an influential Jazz pianist who became one of America’s favorite pop singers in the 1940s-1960s. He is known for soft, smooth, baritone vocals.

Cole was also a pioneer for African-Americans in entertainment. He was the first African-American to host a national variety show on television.

Nat King Cole’s breakthrough hit was 1943’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” The lyrics speak to Cole’s preacher father who wished his son would give up music for a more serious profession.

Though “Straighten Up and Fly Right” is a Jazz piece, it later influenced the early rockers. Part of that influence was the Nat King Cole Trio’s format of piano, guitar, and bass.

Songwriting legend Johnny Mercer invited Cole to record “Straighten Up and Fly Right” for his brand new company Capitol Records. The iconic Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles is called “The house that Nat built” because Cole’s success funded the young company. The round building references a stack of records in a juke box.

Cole’s signature song was 1951’s “Unforgettable.” His daughter Natalie Cole made it a hit again in 1991 by mixing her vocals with her father’s.

Cole hosted “The Nat King Cole Show” on NBC from 1956-57. It was the first national variety show hosted by an African-American.

Nat also made a few records in Spanish. 1958’s “Cole Español” was recorded in Havana, Cuba. It was so popular in Latin America that Cole also recorded “A Mis Amigos” (1959) and “More Cole Español” in 1962. Cole was inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013 for his contributions to Latin music.

Nat King Cole singing “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” on television

Cole sold over 50 million records during his career. At Capitol Records, he charted over 150 singles.

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