Another legendary figure who transitioned over from Jazz to Pop and achieved massive success. Last night it was Peggy Lee and a group of songs she recorded in session from 1945 for C.P. MacGregor studios. Tonight it’s Nat King Cole and his Swing Trio, recorded down the street at the Standard Transcription Company’s Studios on February 1939.
People who knew Nat King Cole from his days as a Jazz singer/pianist and his remarkable trio were horrified when he transitioned out of Jazz and into Pop, achieving almost overnight success with songs like Nature Boy. But people who know Nat King Cole only as someone who sang pop ballads all the way to the 1960s with one of his last hits, Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer register shock when they hear what he was really all about going back to the 1930s.
And like Peggy Lee and so many others, working for these transcription companies made economic sense but also provided some rare glimpses into an artist during their formative years. These sessions, part of a group of discs Cole did for Standard in 1938 are pretty rare – only surfacing once as a 4-CD Box Set in Japan which has long gone out of print. These sessions are more interesting than even his later Capitol Transcription sessions, recorded some years later and reissued several times over the years by Capitol and others. But by that time (1947-1948), the group had established themselves firmly with a nationwide radio audience and had a string of successful club tours around the country.
These dates, done for Standard had started in October of 1938, when the group were together for only a year. So even by the time the sessions tonight were recorded (February 1939) they were already seasoned professionals with a solid reputation on the West Coast.
So you may not have heard these before. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Nat King Cole aficionado you most likely have the Japanese Box set. If not, dive into these and enjoy some early Nat King Cole.