BY JAMILA ROBINSON
There is certain ease to Natalie Cole’s singing.
Her sumptuous, buttery, vocals are the kind of rare treasure that needs only the twinkling of a piano, the snapping of fingers and the thump-thump-thump of a stand-up bass.
After opening her Friday night concert at Cobb Energy Centre with an alluring medley of “Fever” and “Summertime,” Cole promised the audience an “unforgettable night of music.”
What she delivered was a cache of classics, from Ella Fitzgerald’s “A Tisket, A Tasket” and “Route 66” and an illustration of the diversity of jazz by including “Acércate Más” – a virtual duet with her father Nat King Cole.
Natalie Cole, 65, showed off the virtuosity of her instrument, each lush note expressed with intent. From her clear and well-placed scatting to way she whispers into changes of key and octave, she performed a master class of vocal flexibility.
Cole’s performance was also filled with glamour. Elegant, she often sat just on the edge of stool in front of a grand piano or stood with movements that were strikingly spare, often only using her hands to express a note or to gracefully turn the pages of the sheet music printed on the stand in front of her.
This simplicity of staging helped maintain the nostalgia captured through the black-and-white family photos that were projected onto a large screen as a vocal track of Nat King Cole joined his daughter for their duet “Unforgettable.” Natalie Cole talked about her relationship with her father and mother, also a singer, and offered the audience some Cole family “trivia.”
While the stories garnered laughter, the audience of jazz aficionados listened keenly and acknowledged the standards “The Very Thought of You” and “What a Difference a Day Makes” with rousing applause after only the first few notes.
While much of the performance was from the American Songbook, Cole also reminded the audience of her successful R&B career, belting out some of her biggest hits including “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” and “Inseparable.”
Cole’s setlist also included covers of the country band Little Big Town’s “Your Side of the Bed” and “Love Dance,” a song by Ivan Lins popularized by Diana Krall.
During the encore, Cole showed off her gospel chops with a powerful “Thank You, Lord (For all that You’ve Done for Me.”