Nat King Cole: Profiles in Jazz

The Nat King Cole story is a tale of two major talents, both owned by the same person. Equally skilled as a jazz pianist and a middle-of-the-road pop crooner, Cole would still be remembered with affection today if he only had one of those musical identities. Nathaniel Adams Coles (he changed his last name to Cole early in his career) was born March 17, 1919 (although his birthdate has sometimes been given as 1917) in Montgomery, Alabama. He was one of four brothers who became musicians: bassist Eddie Coles (who was nine years older) and pianists Ike Cole and Freddy Cole, all of whom also sang. Raised in Chicago, Nat started on the organ when he was four and had his first piano lessons when he was 12. He considered his musical hero and main influence to be Earl Hines although, by the late 1930s, one could also hear bits of Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum in his playing. Cole dropped out of school when he was 15 to work as a pianist, leading the Royal Dukes in 1934. When Eddie Coles returned to Chicago after touring with Noble Sissle, they formed a sextet, Eddie Coles’ Swingsters, recording four titles for the Decca label in 1936. The following year they toured with a revival of the musical Shuffle Along. That year he married a member of the cast, Nadine Robinson, and settled in Los Angeles after the show ended. Cole led a short-lived big band and then formed a trio to play in clubs that
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Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.

Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.

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