I Remember You: The Music of Nat King Cole
Nicholas Bearde is a renowned jazz vocalist with a silky baritone voice that lies somewhere between Nat King Cole and Billy Eckstein. He’s the ideal one to pay tribute to Nat King Cole in celebration of Cole’s 100th birthday with I Remember You: The Music of Nat King Cole. This is Bearde’s sixth album as a leader and follows his high charting 2016 Invitation, produced and arranged by Nat Adderley Jr., and featuring saxophonist Vincent Herring. That was an album of standards too, paving the way for these romantic interpretations of ten songs associated with Cole.
For the project Bearde tapped some of the best jazz musicians in both Southern and Northern California (where he is based). He recorded with the fluid, lyrical Los Angeles -based pianist Josh Nelson and a rhythm section of Alex Boneham on bass and either Dan Schnelle or Lorca Hart on drums. The Northern California band has Peter Horvath at piano with Dan Feiszli on bass and Jason Lewis on drums. Joining the L.A.-based unit on three songs is NYC-based tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. The tunes are “That Sunday, That Summer,” “Funny (Not Much),” and “Thou Swell.” Those songs, and “Sweet Lorraine,” “The Rules of the Road,” Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Tenderly,” and “I Wish You Love” were all arranged by Nelson. Bearde and Horvath arranged the title track and “L-O-V-E.”
Certainly anyone paying tribute to Nat King Cole must be elegant, romantic, and convey warmth. Bearde does all those things exceptionally well and injects his own phrasing to the tunes. He’s plenty smooth but no singer was smoother than Cole and, especially on the tunes with Alexander, Bearde trades in the smoothness for a livelier delivery. Keep in mind that Cole mostly sang songs from other writers. The only one he penned of these ten was “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”
Prior to establishing his own recordings as a leader, Bearde was a member of Bobby McFerrin’s groundbreaking a cappella group Voicestra. He was also a long time member of SoVoSo, a vocal improvisation group that won numerous awards, among them 1st place at the renowned CASA, a cappella summit awards, and nominations for “Best Group” and “Best Album,” and Bearde as “Best Lead Vocalist.” Bearde also has considerable acting experience in both plays, films, and television; having worked alongside Richard Gere, Kim Basinger, and Clint Eastwood, among others.
For those who love standards sung by a rich, deep, voice, Bearde’s version of Cole is a bit more animated and slightly hipper. Naturally, it’s ideal for late night listening.
- Jim Hynes