Nat King Cole -  After Midnight

Nat King Cole: After Midnight

Album #13 - 1957

Episode date - July 26, 2023

The Top 500 of The Top 40
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    Nat King Cole’s career dates from the late ‘30s, when he fronted a jazz trio with Oscar Moore and Johnny Miller that defined a small-group aesthetic in the midst of the Big Band era.

    His agile piano style combined with his impossibly smooth vocals, pushing records like “Sweet Lorraine”, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “Route 66” up the charts, making the trio one of the biggest sellers on Johnny Mercer’s new “Capitol” label.

    By the fifties, though, Cole’s motivations became suspect when lush arrangements of pop songs like “Mona Lisa,” “Too Young” and “Unforgettable” ignored his tight-knit jazz background and catered to the ‘easy listening’ audience. His popularity soared, to the point where he earned his own television show (!) but his original fans felt ostracized and presumed that he preferred to forget the jazz roots of his past.

    In 1957, “After Midnight” surprised the naysayers by featuring Cole with a new ‘trio’ (if you don’t count the drums, violin, trumpet and/or sax) that stripped away the orchestral sweetness, performing arrangements that resembled his classic work from the ‘40s. He even played piano on the album (an instrument that he abandoned during orchestral sessions), and if you missed the point, it even revisited “Route 66” for good measure.

    His vocals are spot-on perfect, as would be expected, but the fun is in once again experiencing the lightness of his touch. “After Midnight” may be an aberration, but it was welcome, especially when the sweetness of mid-50’s pop music began to take on a saccharine sheen.

    Featured Tracks:

    Just You, Just Me

    Sweet Lorraine

    Sometimes I'm Happy (Sometimes I'm Blue)

    Caravan

    It's Only a Paper Moon

    You're Looking at Me

    Lonely One

    Don't Let It Go to Your Head

    I Know That You Know

    Blame It on My Youth

    When I Grow Too Old to Dream

    (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66

    July 1957 - Billboard Charted #13

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