Volume Four in the Classics Nat King Cole chronology opens with his very first recordings for Capitol, a small West Coast record company established in April 1942 by Johnny Mercer. Although at the time Capitol must have seemed like yet another two-bit enterprise, it was destined to become a major label with which Cole would be associated for the rest of his life. This segment of the chronology, covering a timeline from November 30, 1943 to March 6, 1944, mingles relatively obscure recordings with some of the King Cole Trio's early hits. Certainly Cole's own "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "It's Only a Paper Moon" are still among the most famous performances ever recorded by this group. "Straighten Up" placed them in the same league with Slim Gaillard & His Flat Foot Floogee Boys and The Cats and the Fiddle. It's hard to fathom why Capitol initially rejected Cole's updated treatment of Irving Berlin's amusing opus, "After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It"; this number dates back to the '20s and was originally interpreted by vaudeville acts such as Van and Schenck. The version of "Sweet Lorraine" heard here compares favorably with Cole's initial rendition of December 1940. Those who wish to concentrate upon his amazing abilities as a pianist will appreciate a half-dozen excellent Capitol instrumentals including "Jumpin' at Capitol" (an extension of Fats Waller's frantic stride piano opus "Zonky") and four rare selections recorded for the Disc label in February 1944 by the King Cole Quintette, a one-time-only ensemble comprised of bassist Gene Englund, drummer J.C. Heard, trumpeter Shad Collins and tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet. These extended jams, which were issued on 12" 78 rpm platters allowing for playback time between four and five minutes, are exceptionally satisfying. On the level, this compilation is one of the better installments in the complete recordings of Nat King Cole. It is highly recommended for newcomers and seasoned jazz heads alike.
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