Robin Nolan

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

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If the Los Angeles-based Nat King Cole Trio of the '30s and '40s had employed Django Reinhardt on guitar instead of Oscar Moore and didn't use any piano -- or if Cole had been a featured vocalist for Reinhardt's European groups -- the results might have resembled what acoustic guitarist Robin Nolan does on Boulevard of Broken Dreams. This swing-oriented effort, which was recorded in Amsterdam, Holland, in 2000, finds Nolan featuring a very Cole-minded vocalist on all of the tracks: Randy Greer, the grand nephew of drummer Sonny Greer (who was with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1924-1951). Greer certainly isn't the only singer with a Cole obsession; the others have included Freddy Cole (Nat King Cole's younger brother), Allan Harris, and the late Sonny Brown (a Philadelphia resident who was little-known outside of that city). And even though Greer is hardly the most original singer in the world, he is good at what he does and isn't an exact replica of his main influence -- like Freddy Cole, Greer has a huskier voice than Nat King Cole. Together, Nolan and Greer (who are joined by Paul Meader on upright bass and Kevin Nolan on acoustic rhythm guitar) give listeners a CD that has one foot in the L.A. of the '30s and '40s and the other in the Europe of that era. Unfortunately, their choice of material is way too obvious; most of the tunes are warhorses that have long since been beaten to death. But the CD's concept -- Reinhardt's gypsy jazz meets Nat King Cole -- is certainly intriguing. And when all is said and done, Nolan and Greer provide a likable, if imperfect, disc that both Reinhardt and Cole fans will be glad to have in their collections.

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