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Nat King Cole: Long Live the King

Allan Harris

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Album Review

Allan Harris has oft been told his vocal style bears close resemblance to the late Nat King Cole, so he has followed that sentiment by concocting a program from Cole's repertoire for performance. These sessions from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. have him interpreting most of Cole's most well-known numbers, with half of them being ballads. There is no fault with that, primarily because Harris sounds quite similar, but not perfectly like Nat. His personalized lyric phrasing is his own, while his good piano playing is not as masterful as his hero, which would be a daunting task anyway. Saxophonist Jesse Jones plays a more perfunctory rather than complementary role in the band, and at times is a bit overbearing for the general dynamics of the music. The concert is an up-and-down affair, gaining and losing momentum to the point where a coach would drastically improve the pacing. Overall the sound of the band is tight and unassuming, pleasant, light and carefree. There is a drawback with the production values, as the recording is a bit thin and not completely clear and robust. The typical songs you expect are here — "For Sentimental Reasons," "Love," "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," "Mona Lisa," "Unforgettable," etc., with "I'll Be Seeing You" less like Nat and more like Harris. "Non Dimenticar/Pretend" comes closest to a direct cop of Cole, sporting a nice Latin baseline. Of the more lively selections, the opener "It's Only a Paper Moon" differs in that Harris improvises in his own way on the second chorus. The other variation "Nature Boy" is adapted in bold and dramatic modal trim, with the fluttery, overblown sax of Jones shooting a spark. The introductory arrangement on "Straighten Up & Fly Right" is somewhat unique with a stop-start technique employed, while Jones eschews a boppish Richie Cole-like line during "Too Young." Putting this up against a Nat or Freddy Cole recording might be unfair, for Harris does exude his own soul, but as a single concept phase in his career, it's a decent, unobtrusive aside. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

One of the top male jazz singers to emerge in the 1990s, Allan Harris sometimes sounds a bit like Nat King Cole but also puts his own personality into his spirited rendition of standards. He first recorded for his own Love Productions label and went on to record two sets for Mons: It's a Wonderful World (a sextet date with Benny Green, Mark Whitfield, and Claudio Roditi), and an ambitious effort on which he is backed by Germany's 54-piece Metropole Orchestra. In 2001, Harris paid tribute to longtime...
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Nat King Cole: Long Live the King, Allan Harris
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