Nat King Cole casts a long stylistic shadow on interpreters of the American Songbook, including me. Cole had a singular blend of pitch-secure baritone sound, fine articulation, a naturally warm delivery and subtle incorporation of many vocal traditions. For me, his female counterpart is Rosemary Clooney.
I have long wanted to add “The Ruby and the Pearl” to my repertoire, but finding a decent arrangement or even a fakebook of this exotic, voluptuous love song is tough. Many notable singers have performed it, including Frankie Lane, but I have always preferred the Cole rendition. Although the smoking had begun to dampen his natural resonance at this point, it’s one of the more evocative recordings he ever made.
In addition to his typically relaxed and restrained interpretation, especially effective in a song with rather passionate lyrics and refrain, his deliciously deployed use of the appogiatura is particularly notable and effective.
In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for a ruby and a pearl.