With the sole exception of Louis Armstrong, Nat "King" Cole was one of the rare black artists to enjoy such celebrity in the Forties and Fifties. He began his career as a pianist, forming a trio in 1937 with guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince, but he was so successful as a singer that he went on to make many recordings as a vocalist. Capitol, his record label, was quick to capitalize on Nat Cole's velvet tones. The hits came one after another: Straighten Up and Fly Right (1943) sold a million copies, and Nature Boy (1948) and Mona Lisa (1950) sold over three 3 million each. Some of his other (numerous) popular hits can be found on Side B. Nat Cole's popular songs, however — some were so sentimental they were even slushy — should never conceal his talents as a pianist and musician, which he displayed with the best jazz orchestras around (Side A), his own trio (Side C) or in outings with Latin rhythms (Side D). His fame earned him his own NBC television show in 1956, while Presidents Truman and Kennedy would consult Nat on complex racial issues. He also appeared in some fifty films, and continued to record profusely (at least a hundred of his titles entered the sales charts.) Nat "King" Cole deserved his title: not only did he sell over fifty million albums, but he also belongs to those artists who wrote jazz history.
The history of music shows us that different kinds and forms follow each other. And that the latest trend overshadows the one that came before it. Today it's difficult to say exactly which trend dominates, as there are so many music currents that overlap and intersect. Mainstream exists no longer. Yet one thing is certain: each music form is built on the music that precedes it. There would be no jazz without classical music, no rock without blues, no rock without jazz, no rap without soul music, no sampling without the riffs of either soul or rock… and therefore, inside each genre you find different chapters in the history of music. And that is why it is so important to understand their origins: they shed the light that is necessary for an understanding of the music born every day.
The richness of jazz lies at the origin of so much music today that it is essential to discover this creative wealth. The Essential Works of Masters of Jazz bring to light those 20th century creations that still exert an influence on the majority of musicians today — whether they are aware of it or not.
The Essential Works of Masters of Jazz gather the fundamental creations of the music of today.