Allan Harris: Nat King Cole: Long Live the King

Three words into “You’re My Everything,” the first track on Allan Harris’ debut disc, It’s a Wonderful World, recorded back in 1995, and the eerie vocal resemblance to Nat “King” Cole became evident. On subsequent albums-Setting the Standards (with its startlingly Cole-esque “On the Street Where You Live”), the Strayhorn tribute Love Came, even on Harris’ ambitious, self-penned Cross That River, an examination of African-Americans’ previously unsung contributions to settling the Western frontier-the echo of Cole grew steadily more arresting. So, it only makes sense that Harris has decided to devote an entire platter to Cole songs. The project began with a 10-day tour of Israel with a Cole tribute show. Harris was then invited to recreate his Cole homage at the Kennedy Center, and had the foresight to record the proceedings. Hence, this 13-track salute, which covers the entire spectrum of Cole’s three-decade vocal career, from “Straighten Up and Fly Right” to “L-O-V-E.” The principal focus is on Cole’s more pop-oriented hits from the 1950s, with renditions of “Too Young,” “Mona Lisa,” “A Blossom Fell,” “Pretend,” “Non Dimenticar” and “Unforgettable,” all carefully crafted to mirror the million-selling originals. Wisely, though, Harris recognizes that no one could replicate the fogged fragility of Cole’s “Nature Boy,” so he opts for a more muscular treatment that serves Eben Ahbez’s haunting treatise on reciprocal love equally well.