Nathaniel Cole is born in Montgomery, Alabama. His three elder
brothers are all jazz musicians, and Nat's first job, in 1936,
is in brother Eddie's group.
Nat Cole takes part in a classic recording with Lester Young,
but his piano playing loses momentum as his
singing catches the public's imagination: he is first
recorded in 1943 (Straighten Up & Fly Right).
Cole dies of cancer, having kept the diagnosis of his illness private.
Cole forms his trio, with guitar and bass,
is on the road until the mid-1940s, and records until 1951. His style
develops with a sparse left-hand style, which
comments on polished and brightly articulated right-hand lines with
a great sense of time. His influence is Earl
Hines, but he is technically less busy and he develops further
(and softens) the idea of a 'trumpet-style' right hand line.
Cole's commercial popularity transcends that of the narrow jazz world,
and he achieves unparallelled success. He is one of the first black
jazz artists to have a radio show in 1948-49, and the first black
entertainer to have a national television show in 1956-57.
singing owed little to jazz and in his lifetime tended to diminish
respect for him as a pianist. But his playing
left a large legacy with fellow musicians, not only in
terms of his choice of format (piano with bass and guitar - Tatum,
Peterson and Jamal followed), but in terms of style: more fluid and
open right-hand lines which relied less on an overpowering, heavy
left hand. He prepared the way for bebop,
and he influenced a whole generation of younger pianists who came
to the fore in the 1950s such as Oscar
Peterson, Bud Powell, Bill
Evans, Red Garland, Ahmad Jamal and Horace
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