2/16/2012

Natalie Cole: Unforgettable Songs from an Unforgettable Lady

My wife and I were extremely fortunate to be in the audience at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon, on Valentine's Day, 2012, for a special performance by Natalie Cole. The lovely and talented singer, who is famous both in her own right and as the daughter of the late Nat King Cole, one of the most renowned vocalists of his time, was joined by the Oregon Symphony for a marvelous evening that stylishly celebrated the joys and woes of romance.

As the daughter of a famed musician, Natalie Cole was born into the world of show business. She started out singing in clubs and began to make herself known in 1975, mainly in the realm of rhythm and blues, with the release of her first album, Inseparable, which contained a major hit, "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love). In the 1990s, she changed her musical direction and acknowledged the formidable legacy of her father, releasing Unforgettable... with Love, an album on which she sang many of the standards that he had recorded during his heyday. Since then, she has continued to record and perform regularly, in addition to making appearances on television and in films.

At Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the evening began with several offerings by the members of the Oregon Symphony (under the direction of Sean O'Loughlin), including George Gershwin's overture to Girl Crazy and a rendering of "My Funny Valentine." Natalie Cole herself was heard before she was seen. She began singing her first number, "The Very Thought of You," from offstage, and then stepped out and into the spotlight, looking sleek and sophisticated in a black gown, with a glittery bracelet on her right wrist. Next came "Come Rain or Come Shine," followed by "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" (with a humorous story about singing the song to her father when she was a child), "Summer Sun," and "Nice 'n' Easy" (with a few words regarding her father's friend, Frank Sinatra).

Natalie Cole's performance was highlighted by many of Nat King Cole's well-known songs: "For Sentimental Reasons," "Tenderly," "Autumn Leaves," "Route 66," "Smile," "L-O-V-E," and, of course, "Unforgettable," which was touchingly performed as a duet, with Natalie Cole singing along to a video of her father. Among the other songs she performed were "Tell Me All About It," "Here's to Life," "Lollipops and Roses," and "More Than You'll Ever Know." She also performed two of her hits from the 1970s: "Mr. Melody" and "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)." She was impressively supported by the orchestra (directed by Gail Deadrick), two backup singers, and a handful of musicians on piano, keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and trumpet. Her son, Robert Adam Yancy, was featured on percussion.

In Portland, Natalie Cole lovingly honored the memory of her father, while gracefully displaying her own gifts as a vocalist. She proved herself to have abundant quantities of poise and polish, expertly delivering the essence of the music, and establishing a close bond with her audience. Her voice was strong and expressive throughout her entire performance, bringing a full range of warm feelings to each tune. It was an evening of unforgettable songs from an unforgettable lady.