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Natalie Cole
June 16 2003 at Blue Note Tokyo

Natalie Cole - the top jazz vocalist in the world
The lush and sensual vocals make a night unforgettable with love.

Natalie Cole(vo), Terry Trotter(p), Ryo Okumoto(key), Michael Miller(g), Kevin Axt(b), Johnny Friday(ds), Michael Mishaw(cho),
Catte Adams(cho)

< First Set >

The stage started with an instrumental number "Our Love is Here to Stay". Popping 4 beat rhythm section provided a foundation for flowing piano solo by Terry Trotter and light fingered guitar solo by Michael Miller. Ryo Okumoto filled in right on with his organ solo which came as a nice breeze to the ears of the audience. Johnny Friday presents sophisticated drumming in perfect combination with Kevin Axt on the upright bass. This is a five star band altogether.

Another instrumental tune, "Love Letters" was played before Natalie Cole stepped on the stage. As Natalie walked through the audience seats she was radiating the aura of a top star. The first song for her was "What a Difference a Day Made". Smooth and tender vocals of Natalie filled the air in the venue, enwrapping the crowd in gentle atmosphere.

Natalie spoke to the audience to relax and enjoy, and "Almost Like Being in Love" began to play. The introduction part played by Ryo Okumoto on the string synthesizer had translucent beauty of its own. Natalie's vocal gave another depth to the song and the whole performance sounded well rounded.

"Sandman" started off with a conversation between the bass and the vocal. Gradually the sound of the band turned into a big band sound. Listening to the band play it is as if a real big band is there. Exquisite groove was made and the volume went up as Ryo Okumoto played the brass part on his keyboards which gave luster to the band ensamble.

The following number, "Route 66" came also in a dynamic big band sound. Upbeat and packed with fun Natalie's vocal sounded as if to dance. The next tune "Straighten Up and Fly Right" had a heart lifting exchanges between Natalie and the backing vocals, as well as the splendid rhythm combination of the bass and the drums. Terry Trotter's tasty piano solo was also noteworthy with sophisticated passages.

The show was loaded with the best of standard numbers but the most impressive were "Smile" and "Unforgettable". When Natalie softly sang "Smile" sitting on the high stool the ethereal beauty was so strong that it brought tears in the eyes of the audience. The melodious solo by Michael Miller on acoustic guitar was quite touching as well. Natalie called "Unforgettable" a very special song, which certainly is. This song was presented with Nat King Cole on the video screen in a virtual duet with Natalie. A moment of everlasting beauty is was.

"Tell Me All About It " is a sweet tune in minor chords sang by Natalie partly in scat vocals. When she touches a song it becomes a masterpiece. The last song "Orange Colored Sky" came in upbeat rhythm and showed once again the mastery of Natalie's vocal giving a strong finish to the show. As "Unforgettable" was played Natalie walked off the stage.

To the overwhelming enthusiasm in the crowd, the encore piece "Love" was performed in high spirits. The audience showed appreciation by clapping their hands along and the show came to the end in a uplifting atmosphere.

Set List)
1. Our Love Is Here to Stay
2. Love Letters
3. What a Difference a Day Made
4. Almost Like Being in Love
5. Sandman
6. Route 66
7. Straighten Up and Fly Right
8. Smile
9. Unforgettable
10. Tell Me All About It
11. Orange Colored Sky
12. Unforgettable


Report by Asako Matsuzaka
Many Thanks to Blue Note Tokyo


< Second Set >

Needless to say Natalie Cole is the finest jazz singer around in today's jazz scene. Being born in the family of the reknowned vocalist Nat King Cole, she grew up hearing great jazz musicians as contemporaries. This must have contributed to her singing style to a good extent but that alone does not serve justice to the finesse of her vocals. To date she has been presented as the daughter of Nat King Cole, as it was the case with her appearance at the Blue Note Tokyo for this week. Many old time jazz fans must have a special place in their mind for Nat King Cole as the standard of the standards in jazz vocals, and in this context it is inevitable to bring up his name in the promotion of the shows. Nonetheless new and younger fans who acquainted themselves to jazz through fusion or mixture jazz may be inclined to regard Natalie Cole as the standard of contemporary jazz scene, and her own style and muscial interpretation can well stand as an original performance style without having to reference her father. In the meantime, intended or not, she is the bridge between the old and new in the vocal performance. Through her vocals one can hear the classical elegance of the sound of 40's and 50's as well as up to date sparkles of funkiness.

In the performance today it was apparent that she had her own world up on the stage which was broad enough to embrace the evolving jazz scenes through decades. Strikingly beautiful to hear and behold, Natalie came up on the stage, as the band had finished the opening instrumental piece "Guanabara Bay" written by the keyboardist Ryo Okumoto, who is also known globally for his brilliant performances in his own band Spock's Beard and as a solo artist, to the gentle interlude of the grand piano. From the point the first word of "Tell Me All About It" was sung, the venue was wrapped in the lush and smooth sound of master pieces. The set list included: "I Haven't Got Anything" which was presented with exquisite harmonies between the piano and the strings on the synthesizers; "Two for the Blues" with dazzling combination of Natalie and the chorus; "Route 66" which introduced the band in the order of Ryo Okumoto on the synthesizers, Terry Trotter on the piano, Kevin Axt on the bass, and Johnny Friday on the drums; Duke Ellington clasic "I'm Beginning to See the Light"; "Like a Lover"; "Too Young"; "Smile"; and of course "Unforgettable" with Nat King Cole on the video display in virtual duet with Natalie. "Unforgettable" was given a new arrangement featuring Michel Miller on the guitar. A great performance indeed and the club literally packed with audience to every corner and the walls was boiling in huge cheers. As natalie introduced the song "The next song needs no introducion - the first word says it all", "Paper Moon" started in a big swing with the big band sound on the keyboards. At the end of this song Natalie walked off the stage. As the band played the refrain of the theme from the same song, Natalie came back to the stage for encore. Led by the bass and the drums as the keyboards add mysterious atmosphere, Natalie sang "Calling You", then followed by "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" to an explosive applause from the enthusiastic crowd.

It was a memorable evening of fine music performed by the top-notch musicians in a great shape. Natalie Cole was energetic and in a good mood on stage and had a few personable interaction with the crowd which was quite nice to create a sense of intimacy in the whole venue. Without doubt, with or without the mentioning of her father, Natalie has gained everlasting popularity by the excellence of her vocals in the mind of fans who were fortunate to be able to squeeze in to the overcrowded Tokyo Blue Note.

Set List)
1. Guanabara Bay
2. Tell Me All About It
3. I Haven't Got Anything
4. Two for the Blues
5. Route 66
6. I'm Beginning to See the Light
7. Like a Lover
8. Too Young
9. Smile
10. Unforgettable
11. Paper Moon

Calling You
This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)

Report by Tatsuro Ueda
Many Thanks to Blue Note Tokyo

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