’Unforgettable’ :: Brian De Lorenzo Remembers Nat King Cole

by Kay Bourne

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday March 11, 2013

When vocalist Brian De Lorenzo mused through the Nat King Cole songbook for his upcoming cabaret night at Scullers, he pondered the beloved African American entertainer's climb to fame despite the bigotry of the time.

Brian De Lorenzo sings Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook: A Tribute to the Artistry and Remarkable Career of One of America's Favorite Singers for one night only, Weds., March 13 at 8 pm at Scullers Jazz Club on Soldiers Field Rd. in Boston.

He got more acquainted with Cole's life when De Lorenzo and his husband had gone on vacation to Mexico. "I brought with me a bio of Nat King Cole ("Nat King Cole" by Daniel Mark Epstein, 2000)."

Built Capitol Records

The singer was "extremely fascinated" with the story of the soft voiced baritone and jazz pianist. Born Nathaniel Adams Coles in 1919, he was one of the first African Americans to host a network tv variety show ("The Nat King Cole Show" NBC, 1956), and having signed with the then fledgling Capitol Records in 1943, sold so many records for them that their corporate building near Hollywood and Vine in L.A. became known as "the House that Nat Built."

Yet despite Cole's popularity with music lovers, however, his television show was canceled when stations in the South refused to air it and sponsors didn't want to offend racist Southerners. The bottom line was the show couldn't secure any national advertisers.

"The biography informed my choice of songs but also informed me about the person and the racism he faced. I thought 'Wow!' he managed to be so successful even so.'

"Also, previously, I hadn't understood either how important the (jazz pianist) Earl Hines was to Cole when he was first finding his way musically.

’50s and ’’60s

"All of it impacts our own interpretation of his songs," continues De Lorenzo, whose band at Scullers is made up of pianist Bill Duffy, Ed Harlow on sax, Steve Rose on drums, and Keala Kaumeheiwa on bass.

Brian, by the way, is one of the founding members of the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists and since it got going in 1995 has served variously as its president, vice president, and editor of its news letter.

De Lorenzo's program dips mostly into Cole's music from the 50s and 60s. He talked a bit about the reasoning behind some selections:

"Day In, Day Out" a Johnny Mercer song. Says De Lorenzo, "Johnny Mercer (a co-founder of Capitol Records) is one of my favorite lyricists and this is such a joyous arrangement, based on an arrangement by the great Billy May (from "Let's Face The Music" Capitol Records released in 1964). "

"Answer Me (My Love)" the best selling version of a song originally with lyrics in German with English lyrics written in 1953 was Nat King Cole's in 1954.

De Lorenzo says "It has a great combination of music and lyrics to pull at the heart strings. I'm sure most of us can identify with having hurt a spouse/partner/lover without knowing what it is that caused the hurt."

"You'll Never Know" (1943 Academy Award for Best Original Song which Alice Faye sang in "Hello, Frisco Hello" but never recorded although it became her signature song) It was written by Harry Warren who was the first American composer to write primarily for films. The Cole version comes from his album of all Harry Warren songs.

A departure

De Lorenzo says "Harry Warren is one of my favorite songwriters and Nat recorded a lot of his songs. I like how Nat does this as a medium swing number instead of a slow ballad, as it's usually done."

De Lorenzo departs from the songs Cole recorded when he does "All About Love." The cabaret singer notes that "This wasn't recorded by Nat but by his daughter Natalie. It's a fun song and a fun arrangement done for me by Tom LaMark (based on an arrangement by Bill Holman). Plus it was co-written by Bill Dana, who is most famous for his TV character 'Jose Jimenez.'"

De Lorenzo's club appearances include New York's Birdland, cruise ships in Alaska and the Mediterranean, and previous engagements at Club Cafť and the Calderwood Pavillion, as well as at Scullers where two years ago he celebrated 40 years of singing professionally (his first professional engagement was at age nine).

Brian De Lorenzo sings Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook: A Tribute to the Artistry & Remarkable Career of One of America's Favorite Singers. One night only, Weds., March 13 at 8 pm. With the Bill Duffy Quartet. Both tickets to the show only or dinner and the show are available. For more info please phone 617-552-4111 or go to www.Scullersjazz.com.