On October 27, 2-time GRAMMY-winning vocalist Gregory Porter released his 3rd Blue Note album, Nat King Cole & Me, a heartfelt tribute to his idol, the legendary singer, pianist and Capitol recording artist Nat King Cole. With the help of 6-time GRAMMY-winning arranger Vince Mendoza, the London Studio Orchestra, and a core band featuring pianist Christian Sands, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Ulysses Owens, Porter revisits some of Cole’s most cherished classics such as “Mona Lisa,” “L-O-V-E,” “Nature Boy,” “The Christmas Song,” and the lead track “Smile”.

For Porter, the influence of Cole on his life and music runs deep, a through-line that reaches back into some of his earliest childhood memories. “He was one of a kind. He left such great music – such beautiful things to listen to that you can’t help but be influenced by that extraordinary timbre, style, and ultimate cool,” Porter enthuses. “It’s only natural that I go to the root of my inspiration and where I come from. And that root would be my mother and gospel music and Nat King Cole,” Porter says.

“My mother said I wrote this little song when I was 5 and put it on a tape and played it for her when she came home from work,” recalls Porter. Upon hearing it his mother, Ruth Porter, exclaimed “Boy, you sound like Nat King Cole,” a compliment that sent the curious young Gregory delving into her record collection. 

“I remember thinking how strange that name was, going through her records, and first seeing his image: this elegant, handsome, strong man sitting by a fire, looking like somebody’s daddy. Then I put the vinyl on the player and out of those speakers came that voice, that nurturing sound. It filled a void in me. My father wasn’t in my life; he wasn’t raising me; he wasn’t showing any interest in me. So Nat’s words, ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again’ – all of these life lessons and words of wisdom were like fatherly advice. They were coming out of the speakers like Nat was singing those words just to me. I would listen to his albums and imagine that Nat was my father.”

Earlier in Porter’s career – after his role in the Tony-nominated musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues but before rising to international acclaim as his solo artist – Porter dramatized his deep appreciation for Cole in a semi-autobiographical musical, Nat King Cole & Me, which premiered in 2004. “That musical was a way of me trying to find my father,” Porter explains. “I wrote it after my father [Rufus Porter] had passed. The musical was of Nat King Cole, and half of the music was of my original writing. But the story is how I came to Nat’s music in the absence of my father. So in a way, it was some self-prescribed, self-written therapy and emotional medicine for myself.”

 

That musical underpins Nat King Cole & Me, the follow-up to Porter’s GRAMMY-winning Blue Note albums Liquid Spirit (2013) and Take Me to the Alley (2016), which established Porter as a global superstar and his generation’s most soulful jazz singer-songwriter. The album will be available in the following formats: deluxe vinyl, deluxe/standard CD, deluxe/standard download, and on streaming services.

“I went about selecting the songs like I always do – first in a very emotional way,” Porter says. “I just gathered the songs that meant something to me over the years. There was a period in college when I had an injury to my shoulder and I needed music to soothe me at that time. So I ended up going back to Nat’s records. Then I did the same thing during the passing of my mother. In a way, there’s a familiarity and a calming effect to Nat’s music. Recording Nat’s music was very personal because I could hear and feel my mother. And I still feel myself searching for my father.”


The track listing for Nat King Cole & Me is as follows:

 

  1. Mona Lisa (Ray Evans/Jay Livingston)
  2. Smile (Charlie Chaplin/John Turner/Geoffrey Parsons)
  3. Nature Boy (Eden Ahbez)
  4. L-O-V-E (Milt Gabler/Bert Kaempfert)
  5. Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (Farres Osvaldo)
  6. Miss Otis Regrets (Cole Porter)
  7. Pick Yourself Up (Jerome Kern/ Dorothy Fields)
  8. When Love Was King (Gregory Porter)
  9. The Lonely One (Lenny Hambro/ Roberto Heller)
  10. Ballerina (Carl Sigman/ Bob Russell)
  11. I Wonder Who My Daddy Is (Gladys Shelley)
  12. But Beautiful** (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen)
  13. Sweet Lorraine** (Cliff Burwell/Mitchell Parish)
  14. For All We Know** (J. Fred Coots/Sam M. Lewis)
  15. The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé/Robert Wells)

**only available on deluxe edition