The piano mastery of Nat “King” Cole
If you’re over 30, you’ve almost certainly heard Nat “King” Cole sing. Nat was born 96 years ago yesterday (March 17). Even if you’re under 30, you’ve heard this:
Now, if you’re a jazzhead, you probably already know that long before he became a famous crooner, Nat was one of the greatest jazz pianists who ever played. Nat’s trio — with Oscar Moore on guitar and either Wesley Prince or Johnny Miller on bass — sounded like proof of telepathy. They could play beautiful, flowing, intricate lines together as effortlessly as you please. Listen, for example, to the introduction to this classic standard:
The trio had no drummer (sorry, Scott!), but they didn’t need one to swing hard:
To my ear, this band is the gold standard of jazz trio playing. There are more famous trios (those of Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans, for example), but none better. For tasteful, musical, swinging playing, make mine the King.
— Jason Crane is the host of The Jazz Session and the webmaster of this site.