Cole Swings Cole: George Cole celebrates Nat King Cole
Guitarist and singer George Cole and the George Cole Trio will bring music popularized by jazz and pop singer and pianist Nat King Cole to The Palms Playhouse (13 Main St. in Winters), tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 ($18 with student ID).
Although the show falls on the eve of the elder Cole’s 100th birthday, that centennial isn’t what triggered the “Cole Swings Cole” project.
Cole explained that the show’s genesis lies in a post-gig conversation with famed mandolinist David “Dawg” Grisman, with whom Cole has played since 2014 as part of the David Grisman Sextet.
“Dawg and I are both fans of Nat’s music,” he said. “We were in a car heading to La Guardia Airport the morning after a show. Dawg (was) laying waste to a joint. As he coughed, he said, ‘You know what you should do? Make a ‘Cole Sings Cole’ record!’ I said, ‘Only if you produce it,’ and I started learning Nat’s music immediately.”
While he hasn’t recorded the album yet, Cole assembled a piano-guitar-bass trio in Cole’s tradition and recorded videos of two of his songs, which he’s released as an EP produced by John Cuniberti (Joe Satriani, Sammy Hagar). Cole said the videos “really kicked off the idea of doing a Nat show.”
In addition to Cole on guitar and lead vocals, the George Cole Trio is bassist Carla Kaufman and pianist Greg Sankovich.
“Nat Cole and his trio really developed the template for this style of music,” he explained. “We try to stick to the trio arrangements as much as possible as I am a huge Oscar Moore (Nat Cole’s longtime guitarist) aficionado. When we do the big pop hits from the ’50s and ’60s we have to re-imagine the arrangements, as we are a trio.”
While the Nat King Cole Trio’s songs and arrangements remain touchstones, the George Cole Trio makes the music their own.
“When I started out doing Nat’s music three years ago, it was all about playing his music as close as possible to the originals. Now, I have created new music in his style, which in my mind honors him and sets the course for new work.”
Nat King Cole is far from George Cole’s only musical influence. Cole previously appeared at The Palms with his Django Reinhardt-inspired gypsy jazz band George Cole & Eurocana.
Before he became a jazz and swing acoustic guitarist, Cole was an in-demand electric guitarist whose credits include Chris Isaak’s platinum-selling album “Forever Blue,” playing with The Eagles’ Joe Walsh, and being Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s longtime guitar teacher.
Cole said he “started this journey” more than 10 years ago.
“I sold all my electric guitars and amps to purchase Selmer #103 (a guitar reputedly owned by Reinhardt’s brother Joseph) and study Django music.”
Cole reflected, “As a guitarist, I am the sum of my influences, which range from Tony Rice to Eric Clapton, Eddie Lang, Chet Atkins, Django and many more. I always try to use good taste so it does not sound like I am simply regurgitating my heroes’ ideas. Ultimately it is important for all artists, writers, etc. to find their own voice and create their own art.”
Tickets are available at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland, online via The Palms’ website and through Eventbrite, and at the door if the show is not sold out.
For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and georgecole.net.