Originally posted on December 12, 2007
Nat “King” Cole. Right. Everybody remembers him singing “Unforgettable” or whatever in front of a microphone. But who remembers that a.) He was one of the most important jazz pianists of the ‘40s; and b.) long before he was fabulously popular he had a trio of bass, piano and electric guitar and would do advanced instrumental pieces as well as vocals? He was not so commercial as he became, but tremendously respected in those days by musicians and those who liked jazz.
Ray Charles had a similar period (really a few, but that’s another story). When he first started recording for Swing Tone and Down Beat records (1949-1952) he had a trio just like Nat’s and sometimes even sung like him. Other times he would do blues and soul sides that set the stage for what he would start doing so well and successfully for Atlantic Records. On these early sides his trio was on the beam and there are some larger band arrangements as well from then. A Night Trane 2CD set of his early work (complete) came out a little while ago and it’s well worth having. The man was terrific, even then. Listen to “Hey Now” or “See See Rider” and you’ll get the idea.