@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
13 May 2007
Click an image to enlarge.
The beauty and charm of Pigeon Island during the day,
or night, never fails to excite the senses. With the Atlantic Ocean
on one side, the Caribbean Sea on the other, delicately lit palm
trees gently kissing the sky, combined with the anticipation of
a tremendous musical experience is surely enough to warm the coolest
While many mature patrons gazed at Miss Cole in awe of her youthful
looks, younger patrons commented on her perfect choice of colourful
full-length patchwork dress. A dress which definitely complimented
her svelte figure…and who could miss the large glistening
bling on her finger?
Cole waved and smiled warmly as she moved gracefully across the
Pigeon island stage. She headed straight for the lone microphone
that sat front stage, center. With few words spoken Cole signalled
to her band with a glance before launching into old school favourites
“I’ve Got Love On My Mind” and “Inseparable”.
Sexy, salsa set the scene for an upbeat “Tell Me All About
It”, followed by “Mr Melody”, then the skin-tingling
“Unforgettable”, performed with Mr Cole’s unforgettable
voice soothing the audience to silence. Kirk Whalum also appeared
on stage briefly to add his own style to this unforgettable canvas.
Natalie Cole’s self-penned “Annie Mae”, a real
blast from the past, finished with Cole wiping her guitarist’s
forehead and pleading for ‘more towels’ as the humidity
and warm lights got to her. If She Could See Me Now” followed,
accompanied by delicate acoustic guitar from Cole’s musical
director, and precise vocal harmony from her backing singers.
Cole continued wooing her audience by digging deep into her gospel
repertoire. Pigeon island patrons literally became Cole’s
Cole wrapped up her polished performance with “This Will
Be”, leaving patrons of all ages singing and dancing around
a moonlit stage…Thankfully not a Pink Cadillac in sight!
A magnificent fireworks display signalled the end of another
successful St Lucia Jazz Festival. Many patrons seemed reluctant
to leave as they smooched and danced to sounds of soca and Marley
blasting from stage speakers. Patrons, stagehands, journalists and
local musicians shared stories and passions of festivals past. Thoughts
of the 2008 festival and who would be performing was the question
on everybody’s lips.
Review by Carole Clemesha & Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.
Multiple Grammy-winning recording artist Natalie Cole was just
8 years old when her father, legendary crooner Nat King Cole, recorded
his first album in Spanish, scoring an unexpected international
smash in 1958. Her father’s foreign-language success was a
culturally captivating experience for little Natalie, who got to
travel outside the country for the first time with her famous father.
She vividly recalls a trip to Mexico during which she saw her first
piñata, posed for pictures “as a señorita”
in folkloric dress, and most memorably, witnessed first-hand the
adulation and esteem that Latin American fans showed for the King,
a pioneering African-American superstar.
“They loved, loved, loved him,” she recalls. “And
I loved what he loved. So I fell in love with the culture.”
55 years later, the accomplished R&B and jazz vocalist breaks
new ground of her own with her first Spanish-language album, “Natalie
Cole En Español,” on Verve/Universal. In this, her
first new studio album in five years, Natalie revisits the rich
repertoire of ageless Latin standards that once opened new vistas
for her father. The 12 lushly orchestrated tracks, produced by Rudy
Perez, Billboard’s Latin Music Producer Of The Decade, features
Natalie’s distinctive take on some classics from her father’s
catalogue, plus several other carefully chosen selections from the
Latin American Songbook.
The road to making this record, however, was far from easy. Natalie,
like her father, had many obstacles to overcome.
Nat King Cole was a trailblazer. He went from playing LA beer
joints for $5 per night to scoring chart-topping hits (“Ramblin’
Rose,” “The Christmas Song,” “Mona Lisa”)
that put him on a par with superstar peers such as Frank Sinatra.
Starting as a jazz pianist in the 1940s, his King Cole Trio was
the first African-American act to have a sponsored network radio
show. And in 1956, he became the first African-American performer
to have his own network television show, on NBC. He also appeared
in films, including the comedy Western “Cat Ballou,”
completed just before his death. In its obituary, The New York Times
called him “one of the most durable figures in American popular
music.” Yet, even as an established celebrity, Cole faced
racism at home and abroad. He wasn’t allowed to perform in
certain clubs, especially in the South, and in 1948, when he bought
a new home in LA’s upscale Hancock Park neighborhood, racial
epithets were left in his yard, his dog was poisoned and neighbours
signed a petition against “undesirables.” (To which
he famously responded that he’d be the first to report any
undesirables if he found them.)
Despite all the adversity, Cole continued to build his remarkable
career. His pioneering foray into Latin music set a bilingual trend
that would be imitated by many of his fellow American singers. Nat
King Cole made his first Spanish record, 1958’s “Cole
Español,” at the urging of his Honduras-born manager,
Carlos Gastel. Its success led to two well-received sequels, “A
Mis Amigos” (1959) and “More Cole Español”
(1962). The trio of hit albums on Capitol Records added “cultural
ambassador” to his accomplishments. He was embraced by Latin
American fans, despite his marked American accent in Spanish. They
found his “gringo” lingo endearing, because it underscored
his effort at cultural outreach. In short, remarks Perez, Latinos
loved him for trying.
Cole did not survive to see his daughter follow in his footsteps
with her own solo career. He died of cancer in 1965 at age 45. Ten
years later, Natalie Cole won the first of her nine career Grammy
Awards as Best New Artist of 1975, the year she debuted with the
hit “This Will Be,” which also won for Best R&B
Vocal Performance, Female. In 1991, her tribute album, “Unforgettable…
With Love,” won Album of the Year and marked a mid-career
In the wake of that album’s success, Cole kicked around
ideas for a follow-up, along with her cousin, Carole, who was also
her adoptive sister. They wondered: “What else can we
do that dad did that was kind of interesting and different?”
Their answer: an album of Latin standards.
But hardship, loss and tragedy would get in the way before their
plans could be finally realised.
Four years ago, Natalie Cole was diagnosed with kidney failure
and started getting dialysis treatments three times a week. Appearing
on “Larry King Live,” she made an appeal for a kidney
donor. Watching at home was a nurse named Esther who “serendipitously”
had been on duty at the hospital one day when Cole was in for treatment.
“Oh, I took care of that lady,” the nurse told her niece,
Jessica, who was also watching. “She’s so nice,
I wish I could help her find a kidney.” Less than two
months later, Jessica, who was only 30 years old and eight months
pregnant, died unexpectedly of a stroke. Her aunt came forward and
offered the kidney, because her niece was an organ donor. She was
a perfect match with Cole.
As fate would have it, the donor and her family were immigrants
from El Salvador. The experience brought Cole even closer to the
“I wouldn't put it past the possibility that there is
a spirit of Latino inside of me, because of this family,”
says Cole. “Ever since then, my passion for Spanish and
everything Latin, all of a sudden became more intense. I couldn't
even figure it out myself.”
There’s one final coincidence to add to the saga. When Cole
got the news that a kidney was available, she was at bedside of
her beloved sister, Carole, who was dying of cancer. Cole had to
rush into surgery and wasn’t there when her sister passed
away. The new album is also a tribute to her. “I know
it's something that she would have loved as well,” says
Cole. “She would be so proud.”
Yet another family hardship came last year. Cole lost her mother,
Maria, who died of cancer at age 89. Under the stress of that difficult
time, Cole lost her appetite and a lot of weight. But she bounced
back, as she has from all the challenges in her life. “You
know,” she says with a light laugh, “I may
be down for a minute, but once I figure it out, I can’t stay
there for too long.”
Perez, her Cuban-American producer, marvels at the energy and devotion
Cole poured into the new project. At first, they hired a language
coach who, coincidentally, is the daughter of the late Olga Guillot,
a revered Cuban singer who had coached Nat Cole during his Havana
sessions. But the language came so naturally to Natalie Cole, they
decided formal coaching was superfluous.
“I found out she has an incredible ability to sing in
Spanish phonetically, as you can hear on the album,”
says Perez. “I couldn’t believe it, she was so good…She
could roll her “r’s”, just unbelievable.”
Cole says her relationship with Perez was “simpático”
from the start. She calls it “a perfect partnering.”
Perez, president of the newly formed Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame,
sent over 120 songs for Cole to consider. He gave her background
on all the tunes and their composers, then later screened clips
for her from classic black-and-white movies where some songs were
Natalie Cole Career Highlights
Natalie Cole rocketed to stardom in 1975 with her
debut album, Inseparable, earning her a #1 single, “This Will
Be (An Everlasting Love)” and her first two Grammy® awards
for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
In 1977, Cole scored a No. 1 R&B hit with “I've
Got Love on My Mind” from her third release, Unpredictable,
which became her first platinum album. Cole continued her winning
streak that same year with her fourth album, Thankful, which also
went platinum and featured another signature hit, “Our Love.”
The singer expanded her success with her own TV
special in 1977. It was the first of more than 300 major television
appearances in her career, including dramatic roles on “Law
and Order” and “Touched by an Angel” as well as
guest spots on talk shows with Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and
In 1979, Cole was awarded a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame.
After overcoming personal challenges, Cole returned
in peak form with 1987’s Everlasting, an album which garnered
three hit singles: “Jump Start (My Heart),” the Top
10 ballad “I Live For Your Love,” and her dance-pop
cover of Bruce Springsteen's “Pink Cadillac.”
? Cole marked a career milestone in 1991 with the
release of Unforgettable…With Love, featuring the celebrated
duet with her late father, Nat King Cole. The album spent five weeks
at No. 1 on the pop charts, earned six Grammy® awards, and sold
more than 14 million copies worldwide.
? In 1996, Cole released a follow-up album of American
standards, Stardust, which featured another duet with her father
on “When I Fall in Love.” The album went platinum and
won another Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
? Subsequent albums, Snowfall on the Sahara (1999)
and Ask a Woman Who Knows (2002), both merited the NAACP Image Award
for Outstanding Jazz Artist
? Cole took home her ninth career GRAMMY® award
for 2008’s Still Unforgettable, which won for Best Traditional
Pop Vocal Album. It also earned Natalie a NAACP Award for Best Jazz
? In 2001, she starred as herself in “Livin’
for Love: the Natalie Cole Story,”based on her autobiography,
Angel on My Shoulder, which detailed her harrowing drive to overcome
drug addiction. She received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding
Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.
As an actress, Natalie starred in director Delbert Mann's “Lily
in Winter” and co-starred with Laurence Fishburne and Cicely
Tyson in Walter Mosley’s Always Outnumbered
? Cole released a second memoir in 2010 titled “Love
Brought Me Back,” the heart-wrenching chronicle of her quest
for a kidney transplant.
? Natalie Cole now serves as spokesperson for the
University Kidney Research Organization, a nonprofit organisation
supporting medical research related to the prevention, treatment,
and eradication of all form of kidney disease.
Biography compiled by Agustin Gurza