Nat King Cole

The MacGregor Anthology

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In the '40s, Nat King Cole's trio recorded more than 240 songs for the C.P. MacGregor company -- a Los Angeles-based outfit that specialized in radio transcriptions and had their own studio. Like V-discs, radio transcriptions were not sold commercially; they were 16" records that were strictly for radio broadcast. And Capitol had no problem with Cole doing so much recording for MacGregor because they realized that the radio airplay would be beneficial. These days, Cole's transcriptions are sold commercially and the general public has access to what were basically promotional recordings back in the '40s. Assembled in 2002, The MacGregor Anthology offers a 20-song sample of Cole's MacGregor recordings of 1944-1945 -- the only 1946 recording is a radio broadcast of Cole's trio playing "Cherokee" with Charlie Parker and Benny Carter (among others). The MacGregor Anthology takes listeners back to a time when Cole was still a jazz artist first and foremost -- he had yet to make traditional pre-rock pop his primary focus and he was still specializing in small-group swing. Overall, the sound quality is, by 78-era standards, decent. Thanks to digital remastering, the sound quality is only mildly scratchy, and the vitality of the drumless Nat King Cole Trio (which boasts Oscar Moore on guitar and Johnny Miller on bass) comes through loud and clear on intimate performances of "Laura," "I'm in the Mood for Love," and other standards. The MacGregor Anthology isn't as comprehensive as Music & Arts' four-CD set The MacGregor Years, 1941-1945, which contains 120 selections. But for those who have a more casual interest in World War II-era Cole, this CD provides a thoroughly rewarding overview of the singer/pianist's MacGregor work.

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