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Gregory Porter Celebrates Nat King Cole

Vocal-jazz superstar makes good on the life-changing impact of Nat “King” Cole

Gregory Porter (photo by Erik Umphrey)
Gregory Porter (photo by Erik Umphrey)

For Gregory Porter, Nat “King” Cole & Me has been a long time coming. “I’ve wanted to do these songs with an orchestra for seven or eight years,” the California-based singer says of his new album. “Even when I had the opportunity to do some Nat songs with a small group, I’d be like, ‘Let me hold off. I want to do a project of weight and seriousness.’”

Nat “King” Cole & Me—Porter’s third Blue Note release following the Grammy-winners Liquid Spirit and Take Me to the Alley—is a lavish tribute to the African-American singer-pianist who conquered the entertainment mainstream in the mid-20th century with swing, elegance and a firm, quiet pride. The album is also a debt of lifelong wonder and gratitude repaid with sumptuous invention and intimate commitment. “It’s not a joke when I say that Nat was there from the origins of my understanding of music,” Porter, 45, says over the phone from Paris during a rare break in his touring grind. “I was singing gospel music, and there was music on the radio. But the first record that I laid the needle on was a Nat ‘King’ Cole record.”

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