Unforgettable: A Tribute to Jazz Great Nat King Cole
Metropolitan Room, NYC, March 25, 2017
Reviewed by Virginia Jimenez for Cabaret Scenes
A tribute to Nat King Cole could not be better than that which Thos Shipley has created. Bookending the tribute with clips from the TV special, An Evening with Nat King Cole, Shipley leads the audience on a journey of Cole’s music, highlighting different aspects of his career. Beginning with a medley of “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons,” and “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” he and his trio kick off the show with quick energy that let us know we are in for a treat.
Shipley has a grounded and charming presence that draws us right into his arms. He engages with humor, warmth, and sing-alongs of “Ramblin’ Rose” and “L-O-V-E.” He even plays bongos on “Caravan.” He is so personable, it’s easy to forget he’s performing, especially as he struggles to change jackets on stage. He plays off the wardrobe dysfunction with cheerful banter and keeps the show rolling.
The structure of the performance is practiced and is presented flawlessly. The song list is a well-curated collection of Cole’s famous hits, and the band eases from one song to the next, demonstrating the arc of Cole’s career from jazz to pop music. On piano, Mark Soskin exhibits the dexterity and liveliness required to play this material. Joined by bassist David Finck and Tom Guarna on guitar, the trio imitates the cool jazz vibe that Cole did so well. Shipley easily captures the nuances of Cole’s style in his own powerful and smooth vocal phrasing. This is most apparent in his renditions of “Nature Boy” and “Wild Is Love.”
Thos Shipley and his trio close the show with the well-known “Unforgettable,” and that sums up how Shipley feels about Nat King Cole, and how I feel about his tribute to the legend.