NAT KING COLE & ME
It takes a certain vocal quality to even attempt this. Choose your own metaphor: whether velvet, honey or melted chocolate, lushness is mandatory, as is the ability to soothe. Nat “King” Cole was a primary influence on the young Gregory Porter, and as successful as the latter has been in eventually finding his own identity as a singer and songwriter, the parallels with Cole in timbre and that effortless, liquid quality were always present.
Now he has wafted back down the years and into the comforting arms of Cole’s repertoire, performed with a full orchestra and arrangements by Vince Mendoza that are so plushily upholstered that a lesser voice could sink into them and vanish without a trace. Thankfully there are moments of respite with just the band (including bassist Reuben Rogers and guest trumpeter Terrence Blanchard), and amid the Cole-associated material Porter slips in a whopping orchestral version of his own When Love Was King. This repertoire allows full appreciation of the sheer opulence of his voice, but I prefer him when more of an adventurous edge hangs in the air. JOHN SHAND