King of Cool – The Life and Music of Nat King Cole
Produced by MetroStage
Reviewed by Debbie Minter
A particularly gifted singer, Jimi Ray works with phrasing like the old school performers—Billy Eckstein, Joe Williams, even good ‘ole blue-eyes Frank Sinatra took phrasing to a whole new level. It’s an art form that you don’t hear today in this digital era of McSongs, and easily identifiable in an evening filled with such artistry. “Oh, so That’s what a gorgeously turned phrase sounds like.” Malary also has a good time connecting to the audience with a twinkle in his eye and that radiant smile, exploring the heart of a song, and filling in the short background sketches between numbers. Admittedly, the sing-song cadence of the poetry wears thin in spots, but the insider tips are a treasure—such as how he became Nat “King” Cole from his given name Nathaniel Adams Coles, his transition from instrumentalist to vocalist, juicy tidbits about his wives, including Natalie’s mom, his mastery of both luck and style, and the context of history and social realities, including civil rights.
Along with his unique vocal gifts, Nat Cole had a smooth and effortless gracefulness that he was able to parlay into his own TV show, and movie appearances—such feats were unparalleled, especially for a black performer who was denied his share of front door entrances. Malary relates all of this and more with easygoing charm and appeal. And then and always, there is that voice, which is an absolute marvel of nature. The ballads such as ‘Mona Lisa’, and even ‘Paper Moon’, demonstrate an unparalleled command of the music. He ends the first act with a powerpacked delivery of ‘Don’t get Around Anymore,’ and adds even more punch in Act II with the old standards ‘Sunny Side of the Street,’ ‘Crazy Days of Summer,’ and of course, ‘Unforgettable.’ Jimi Ray Malary proves that not only can he glide through an octive’s range without a break, but he can also belt out a tune in perfect pitch and control. Having one or the other ability is a gift, to do both is, well, “Unforgettable.” Package all that talent with a personable, fun-filled style, along with being easy on the eye – catch him in that white tux in the second act, priceless — and you’ve got a winning combination and a surefire hit that is not to be missed. King of Cool: the Life and Music of Nat King Cole, is playing at Metro Stage,