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The Nat King Cole Trio

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Before his international acclaim as a pop vocalist, Nathaniel Adams Coles built an indelible reputation as a jazz pianist in the groundbreaking combo, The King Cole Trio. Born into a musical family, young Nat Coles (later changed to Cole) recorded with his older brother, Edward, in 1936 for the Decca label. The four sides cut by Eddie Cole’s Solid Swingers gave the general public its first glimpse of Nat’s gentle yet lively piano riffs. After touring with a revival show of Eubie Blake’s revue Shuffle Along, Cole settled in Los Angeles, playing various nightclubs as a soloist. In 1937, club owner Bob Lewis suggested that Cole assemble a small band to work at his Swanee Inn on North La Brea. The group’s unorthodox instrumentation and size - they had no drummer and, at the time, big bands were the rage - featured Wesley Prince on bass and the innovative phrasings of electric guitarist Oscar Moore. The Trio’s blend of jump blues and jazzy instrumentals with bouncy vocal stylings was a collective effort, while Cole occasionally took the lead on standard ballads. After an uneventful 1939 session for the Davis & Schwegler recording company in Hollywood, The Trio accompanied Lionel Hampton on two recording dates the following summer. Their association with Hampton helped, and that winter The Trio signed with Decca. Their 1940-41 sessions for the label yielded sixteen songs and captured the attention of fellow musicians, fans and a handful of critics. Later that fall, The Trio sounded right at home with drummer Lee Young on a four-song session for the Ammor label. In 1942, Cole recorded with Red Callender and saxophonist Lester Young for the Philo/Aladdin label, Oscar Moore with Cole at the piano.

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