Appearing at Town Hall with a big band (featuring Billy Stritch on piano) and two backup singers, Natalie Cole managed to make the concert feel like an intimate event.
Whether performing her own hits or standards from the Great American Songbook, Cole proved that her singing is as good as ever. Whether crooning, scatting or swinging, she was in complete control. She also looked chic in a sparkly white top and black pants.
Cole started with the Peggy Lee hit “Fever” (mostly a duo between her sultry vocal and the acoustic bass) and segued in the middle into “Summertime.” She sounded girlish on the Ella Fitzgerald hit “A Tisket, A Tasket.” Cole paid homage to Dinah Washington with “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Perhaps she was thinking of Billie Holiday as the inspiration for her rendition of “The Very Thought of You.” She also performed some songs that were not as well known, notably Ivan Lins’ “Love Dance.”
As expected, the most moving segments were the duets with her late father, Nat “King” Cole. He appeared on film projected on the back of the stage and there were also many photos of Natalie (at different ages), her father and other musical icons who were family friends, such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Frank Sinatra.
The first of the father-daughter duets was “Acércate Más.” As Natalie explained, this was part of a Spanish language album she made several years ago, “En Español.” She also sang “Frenesi” and, if Town Hall were more spacious, the concertgoers would have been dancing in the aisles.
The emotional peak was her duet with her father on “Unforgettable.” As she observed, “it’s one for the time capsule.” After some of her own r&b hits “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” and “I’ve Got Love on my Mind,” she ended with Charlie Chaplin’s sentimental “Smile.”
Presented as part of the annual Blue Note Jazz Festival, Natalie Cole appealed to a multi-racial, multi-generational audience. Like her father, she demonstrated the power of art to bring people together.