Want to go?
WHAT: Terra State Community College Jazz & American Music Concert Series presents a “Tribute to Nat King Cole” featuring the Chris Buzzelli Trio
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27
WHERE: The Recital Hall of the Bordner Arts & Health Technology Center (Building D), 2830 Napoleon Road, Fremont
If you’re a senior, you probably remember the jazz singer-pianist for his soft baritone voice from his hits in the ‘40s and ‘50s or later as host of his own television show. If you’re a Gen Xer, odds are you know Cole not for his music but his daughter Natalie Cole and her 1991 hit version of his popular song “Unforgettable.” And finally, if you’re younger, well, you may just know he sings some Christmas songs.
Hoping to keep Nat King Cole’s influence and music alive in the new millennium is guitarist Chris Buzzelli, a Bowling Green State University guitar and jazz studies professor. The Chris Buzzelli Trio will be featured at the Terra State Community College Jazz & Amercian Music Concert Series “Tribute to Nat King Cole” taking place this Saturday in the Recital Hall of the Bordner Arts & Health Technology Center (Building D) in Fremont.
The Chris Buzzelli Trio, which also includes Eric Dickey and Kevin Eikum, will be performing Cole songs such as “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Hit That Jive, Jack,” “Frim Fram Sauce” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Funcoast talked to Buzzelli about this unique show and his love of Nat King Cole.
Funcoast: First of all, why create an entire program around the music of Nat King Cole?
Chris Buzzelli (CB): I like the tunes that he did. They’re not tunes that he wrote. He did many of the popular tunes of the day, which I still think are great tunes. Plus, besides the standards, as you would call them, they did a lot of novelty tunes sometimes with group vocals. We’re going to do duet things. They’re just clever tunes and fun to do.
Funcoast: Why did you decide to perform as a trio?
CB: [Cole’s] trio was a very influential trio in its time and it was copied. The instrumentation was somewhat unusual in that it was guitar, piano and bass with him doing a lot of vocals and the group doing some group vocals. That’s the exact format that we’re going with, so we are sticking with that instrumentation. There’s no drummer, which is unusual about it, I guess. It was copied by lots of groups, like Oscar Peterson back in the ‘50s, and Art Tatum had a group like that. Even recently people like Diana Krall have copied that same format and John Pizzarelli.
Funcoast: What makes his trio format so unique?
CB: I like the absence of drums in that it’s more open. The other members of the trio, everybody is responsible for keeping the time and making it swing without a drummer. In this case, everybody kind of has to pitch in and do that.
Funcoast: Nat King Cole is one of those artists many people may know the name but aren’t sure what he’s known for. What can you tell us about him?
CB: Right. Originally he was a very influential pianist and then he became a singer and got known for that. And after that, he was kind of a pop culture icon. He had his own television show and he appeared in some movies. He had various stages of his career. What most people know him for is as a ballad singer where he did a lot of recordings with big orchestras, but we’re focusing more on his early music where he was still playing a lot of piano and influenced other jazz pianists of his time.
Funcoast: Finally, often people see the word jazz and instantly a wall goes up. What do you want to say to music lovers about why they should come out to the “Tribute to Nat King Cole?”
CB: You don’t have to be a jazz fan. I think with a lot of jazz concerts it’s a little more esoteric if you don’t have some prior experience with the music. You’re just kind of not going to get it but that’s not really true of this music. These are all very accessible, and some of the tunes will be familiar to people. It’s just fun music.