Nat "King" Cole & Me (Deluxe) Gregory Porter
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- 1Mona Lisa04:19
- 3Nature Boy03:45
- 5Quizas, Quizas, Quizas04:30
- 6Miss Otis Regrets04:31
- 7Pick Yourself Up03:11
- 8When Love Was King07:45
- 9The Lonely One04:33
- 11I Wonder Who My Daddy Is03:48
- 12But Beautiful04:31
- 13Sweet Lorraine03:35
- 14For All We Know05:32
- 15The Christmas Song03:45
Info for Nat "King" Cole & Me (Deluxe)
2-time GRAMMY-winning vocalist Gregory Porter's 3rd Blue Note album, Nat King Cole & Me, is a heartfelt tribute to his idol, the legendary singer, pianist and Capitol recording artist Nat King Cole. With the help of 6-time GRAMMY-winning arranger Vince Mendoza, the London Studio Orchestra, a core band featuring pianist Christian Sands, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Ulysses Owens, and special guest trumpeter Terence Blanchard on two tracks, Porter revisits some of Cole’s most cherished classics such as “Mona Lisa,” “L-O-V-E,” “Nature Boy,” “The Christmas Song,” and “Smile.”
For Porter, the influence of Cole on his life and music runs deep, a through-line that reaches back into some of his earliest childhood memories. “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,” Porter enthuses. “It’s only natural that I go to the root of my inspiration and where I come from. And that root would be my mother and gospel music and Nat King Cole,” Porter says.
“My mother said I wrote this little song when I was 5 and put it on a tape and played it for her when she came home from work,” recalls Porter. Upon hearing it his mother, Ruth Porter, exclaimed “Boy, you sound like Nat King Cole,” a compliment that sent the curious young Gregory delving into her record collection.
“I remember thinking how strange that name was, going through her records, and first seeing his image: this elegant, handsome, strong man sitting by a 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.”
Earlier in Porter’s career – after his role in the Tony-nominated musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues but before rising to international acclaim as his solo artist – Porter dramatized his deep appreciation for Cole in a semi-autobiographical musical, Nat King Cole & Me, which premiered in 2004.
“That musical was a way of me trying to find my father,” Porter explains. “I wrote it after my father [Rufus Porter] had passed. The musical was of Nat King Cole; and half of the music was of my original writing. But the story is how I came to Nat’s music in the absence of my father. So in a way, it was some self-prescribed, self-written therapy and emotional medicine for myself.”
That musical underpins Nat King Cole & Me, the follow-up to Porter’s GRAMMY-winning Blue Note albums Liquid Spirit (2013) and Take Me to the Alley (2016), which established Porter as a global superstar and his generation’s most soulful jazz singer-songwriter. The album will be available on the following formats: deluxe vinyl, deluxe/standard CD, deluxe/standard download, and on streaming services.
“I went about selecting the songs like I always do – first in a very emotional way,” Porter says. “I just gathered the songs that meant something to me over the years. There was a period in college when I had an injury to my shoulder and I needed music to soothe me at that time. So I ended up going back to Nat’s records. Then I did the same thing during the passing of my mother. In a way, there’s a familiarity and a calming effect to Nat’s music. Recording Nat’s music was very personal because I could hear and feel my mother. And I still feel myself searching for my father.”
Gregory Porter, vocals
Christian Sands, piano
Reuben Rogers, bass
Ulysses Owens, drums
Terence Blanchard, trumpet
The London Studio Orchestra
Vince Mendoza, direction, arrangements
Raised in California, Porter’s mother was a minister, and he cites the Bakersfield Southern Gospel sound, as well as his mother’s Nat King Cole record collection, as fundamental influences on his own sound. Porter began singing in small jazz clubs in San Diego while attending San Diego State University on a football scholarship, where he played outside linebacker. Eventually it was music that Porter chose to pursue full-time at the encouragement of local musicians including his mentor Kamau Kenyatta.
Kenyatta invited Porter to visit him in the studio in Los Angeles, where he was producing flutist Hubert Laws' album Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole. When Laws overheard Porter singing along while he was tracking the Charlie Chaplin song "Smile," he was so impressed with the young singer that he decided to include Porter on the album.
Another fortunate twist of fate was the presence that day of Laws' sister, Eloise, a singer who was soon to join the cast of a new musical theater production It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues. Porter had minimal theatrical experience but was cast in one of the show’s lead roles when the play opened in Denver, and he eventually followed it to Off-Broadway and then Broadway, where The New York Times, in its 1999 rave review, mentioned Porter among the show's "powerhouse line up of singers.” It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues went on to earn both Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations that year.
Porter eventually put down roots in Brooklyn, and in 2010 released his debut album Water (Motéma Music), which earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. His sophomore album Be Good (Motéma Music) followed in 2012 and earned him his second GRAMMY nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance.
Despite having now recorded or shared the stage with the likes of Van Morrison, Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Nicola Conte, Christian McBride, Kenny Barron, Buster Williams and David Murray, Porter remains grounded and humbled by all the new accolades. “Sometimes I haven’t had a chance to absorb and enjoy some of the audiences that I’ve been in front of, especially some of the icons of the music like Wynton and Herbie,” Porter says, “And they give me so much open-arm love; I couldn’t fathom that two years ago.” With the release of Liquid Spirit, Porter’s soaring career will surely ascend even higher.