Natalie Cole Friday, Aug. 18, The Festival at Sandpoint
Imagine a ‘40s or ‘50s nightclub, open to the stars.
Imagine a polished big band, blowing out standards by Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Imagine a richly talented singer, caressing every lyric and adding inspired scat-phrases between verses.
And then imagine the temperature at about 49 degrees. Oh, well. You can’t have everything.
But the temperature didn’t matter on Friday night - the Natalie Cole concert at Sandpoint was romantic enough to warm anyone’s soul.
The big band - half local professionals and half Cole’s own musicians - played in a chiffon-draped bandstand lit in art deco colors of lime-green and tangerine. We were back in the days of Bogart, DiMaggio, and, of course, Nat King Cole.
Natalie’s dad was a presence felt through the evening. Almost every song she sang was a hit for her father, and she even went back into Nat’s pre-history to do “Frim-Fram Sauce,” a naughty little number from the days when he performed under the name of Shorty Nadine.
The rest of the songs were familiar to anybody familiar with Nat King Cole’s songbook, and with Natalie’s “Unforgettable” album. She did “This Can’t Be Love,” “Smile,” “Almost Like Being In Love,” “Paper Moon,” “Mona Lisa,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Avalon,” and a jazzy version of “Route 66.”
The show’s highlight came with a quartet of songs Cole dedicated to all of the lovers in the audience: “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” “For Sentimental Reasons,” “Tenderly,” and “Autumn Leaves.” On the latter song, the band, expertly led by Charles Floyd, created a soundimage of an October gale, leaves swirling in the twilight.
Although the cold was a challenge, Cole’s voice was in prime shape. She has developed into a scat-singer to rival Ella Fitzgerald and she has a mastery of phrasing to rival her father’s.
Her father was there on film as well as in spirit. To close the show, a screen lowered from the front of the stage. There was Nat King Cole, singing a duet with Natalie on “Unforgettable.”
Some might say that the daughter is merely trading on her father’s fame. Not guilty. As she proved Friday night, she has incredible vocal gifts of her own.
Her father ought to be proud. Frank Sinatra has to settle for Nancy and Frank Jr. Nat, on the other hand, has Natalie.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo