THE KING COLE TRIO Transcriptions Vol.4
\Crazy 'Bout Rhythm" Original Recordings 1939-1940
To a whole generation Nat 'King' Cole the radio FamilyFavourite and TV star was a popular vocalist whose golden brown voice andlaid-back, smooth delivery earned him many best-selling hits including "NatureBoy" (1948), "Mona Lisa" (1950), "When I Fall In Love" (1957) and "Ramblin'Rose" (1962). Lionised after hispremature death (in February, 1965) in terms of sheer sales he remains one ofthe most popular singers in the history of recording. However, this universal classification as a pop singer and film-actorhas eclipsed his earlier importance as a bandleader and arranger and hisimportance as a jazz pianist (many times a Downbeat, Metronome and Esquireaward-winner, the influence of his brilliant style was respectfullyacknowledged by Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and others) is not generallyappreciated.
The son of a pastor in the First Baptist Church, Nat wasborn Nathaniel Adams Coles in Montgomery, Alabama, on 17 March 1917, but from1921 grew up in Chicago. Keenlyinterested in the piano as a child (encouraged at first by his choir-mistressmother he first played by ear and at high school studied the instrument moreearnestly with the guidance of the musical educators Walter Dyett and N. ClarkSmith), at twelve he played the organ at his father's church and was steeped inclassical piano repertoire "from Bach to Rachmaninoff". He fronted his first band while stillat school and by 1936 had already cut his first record (for Decca) with hisbass-player brother Eddie Cole's Solid Swingers. Influenced from more than one direction, at this stage Nat'splaying already combined the economical pulse of Basie's left-hand with theintricacy of Earl Hines' right and his own groups, the Rogues of Rhythm andTwelve Royal Dukes, were given to featuring Hines' arrangements.
Later in 1936, Nat left Chicago with Eddie to appear withthe band of a touring revival of Eubie Blake' Shuffle Along. Proclaimed in 1921 the first all-blackBroadway musical, the revival was conspicuously less successful and, findinghimself suddenly out of work in Los Angeles, Nat found work as solo pianist atthe Century Club on Santa Monica Boulevard. In 1938, at Bob Lewis's Swanee Inn Club, he formed the 'KingCole Swingsters', a quartet comprising Oscar Moore (guitar), Wesley Prince(string bass) and Lee Young (drums) which after Young left became the King ColeTrio and went on to perform (and broadcast) in and around the Hollywood and LAarea until late 1940. A patentlyhot small combo comprising piano-guitar-bass, with a Hinesian style still stronglyin evidence, their 'cocktail jazz' approach set the format which Tatum andothers would soon follow, but its other distinction came from frequent vocalcontributions from the Trio (and occasionally from Bonnie Lake or The Dreamers)and from around 1941 from Nat himself - pre-echoing the solo vocalist of later years.
Between 1938 and 1941 Nat provided the instrumental backingson about 200 broadcast transcription discs issued on the Keystone, MacGregorand Standard labels, many of which remain unpublished. These featured various artists (includingThe Dreamers, vocalists Lake, Juanelda Carter and Pauline Byrns & HerPerils) and the solo and instrumental items are invariably prefaced by Nat'sflorid, Hinesian one-note-run intros, characterised by vocals by trio membersad hoc in which scat alternates with lyrics. The majority of the transcriptions predate the Trio's firstcommercial discs, (Deccas, recorded in December 1940) and in general theyrepresent a fair cross-section of the many jazz and Tin Pan Alley standards theTrio would have aired in clubs. Their repertoire is remarkable in its diversity (possibly a reflectionof Nat's catholic tastes and early assimilation of many styles - serious andmundane) and includes light-hearted jazzings of light classics, in the style ofthe day. There are, however, manyitems of obscure authorship although some, if not all, may simply beimprovisations by Cole himself. Our compiler-producer David Lennick has offered the followingclarification : "Transcription companies syndicated their recordings to radiostations, and often recorded songs that were originals (to which they held thecopyrights although they remained unpublished). Credits were never given on the labels since the leasingagreement included the right to play the songs on air without having to declarethe composers' names."
Peter Dempsey, 2003