Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Nat King Cole Trio

  • Jumpin' at Capitol [Rhino, 1990] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Jumpin' at Capitol [Rhino, 1990]
The timbre and phrasing of Cole's dozens upon dozens of '50s hits radiated a calm that was kind, sly, intimate, classy, unassuming, confident, and not boring. Quickly he figured out how to translate the warm cool that made him both the hippest and the biggest of the '40s cocktail pianists into a quiet, assured crooning style whose racial component amalgamated church-bred respectability with jazz-scene hip. In the wake of World War II, he gave America two utterly dissimilar masterpieces--1946's "The Christmas Song," which lit the home fires then and stoked them for decades afterward, and 1948's "Nature Boy," which augured countercultural weirdness that was still decades down the road. But while both are available along with much quality pop--"Unforgettable," "Send for Me," "Walking My Baby Back Home," "Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup"--on the findable 2001 double The Nat King Cole Story, the good stuff doesn't cancel excrescences like the Stan Kenton blare bomb "Orange Colored Sky" or the reflexively sexist "Ballerina." So if you're feeling skint maybe just download the two '40s masterstrokes and add this best-of from his jazzy youth. "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" belonged to him first. "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Sweet Lorraine," and "Embraceable You" might as well have. A-