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The Paul Keller Trio - with special guest vocalist Eddie Erickson
We Like To Riff: A Toast To The Nat "King" Cole Trio
The Paul Keller Trio loves the Nat "King" Cole Trio. And it's so easy to love The Nat "King" Cole Trio. They swing relentlessly, their ensemble is tight, their bouncy rhythmic feel chugs along like a locomotive. Their thoughtful arrangements sparkle with creativity and good humor, their improvisations are fleet and buoyant, their repertoire is charming and memorable. But above all, The Nat "King" Cole trio placed a premium on delighting their listeners in an entertaining and joyful fashion. WE LIKE TO RIFF is an expression of The Paul Keller Trio's admiration and affection for this awesome three-some that brought so much happiness to so many. So, here's a toast to The Nat "King" Cole Trio: Dig it solid, if you please! Allreet!
Nat Cole is, of course, best known as one of America's all-time greatest crooners. Prior to his meteoric rise as a "pop" star, his piano/bass/guitar trio made history as one of the most outstanding small bands of the swing era. Pianist and vocalist Nat Cole along with guitarist Oscar Moore and string bassist Wesley Prince cultivated a concept of presenting small group jazz that caught the imagination of an entire generation. Their light-hearted, "gang" vocals on tunes like Straighten Up And Fly Right and We Like To Riff always bring a smile to the listener's face. These unison vocals are loads of fun and easy to sing along with which makes this music accessible to everyone.
Drafted during World War II, bassist Wesley Prince was replaced by Johnny "Thrifty" Miller and later guitarist Oscar Moore was replaced by Irving Ashby, but the trio's concept and popularity remained in tact. Even today, their music is beloved, having withstood the test of time. The Nat "King" Cole Trio is universally recognized as "the biggest little band ever".
WE LIKE TO RIFF focuses on the three major components of the King Cole Trio's success: Their superior musicianship through their instrumental trio performances, their popular "gang" vocals, and the beauty of Nat Cole's solo vocal prowess.
String bassist Paul Keller has arranged music for his trio and special guest vocalist Eddie Erickson that reflects a deep feeling of love for The Nat "King" Cole Trio. Paul has had an affinity for Cole's music since he heard it as a child in the late 1960s. In 1996, Keller recorded a wonderful CD entitled All For You: A Tribute To The Nat "King" Cole Trio with pianist/vocalist Diana Krall and guitarist Russell Malone. WE LIKE TO RIFF is an extension of that concept and delves even deeper into the King Cole repertoire and arranging style.
Since 2005, the magnificent pianist Steve Richko and Paul Keller have become quite team, playing hundreds of gigs together and collaborating on five PKO CDs. Steve tips his hat to the Nat Cole piano style with plenty of inventiveness and technique. At the same time, Steve shows that he is a unique and modern musician whose star is still rising on the jazz scene.
Ralph Tope is a 25-year-old guitar wiz whose musicality and sensitivity shine on this CD. An undergraduate in the jazz studies department at Michigan State University, Ralph plays with intensity and verve. His youthful spirit adds vitality to this recording.
Vocalist Eddie Erickson lives in Pacific Grove, CA. Eddie well known world-wide as an incredible guitarist and banjoist. But here we feature his equally amazing talents as a singer. Eddie is a consummate vocal story-teller who has the ability to draw the listener in and, through his personal interpretations, slowly reveal the deeper meaning of a song. While Eddie is no copy-cat of Nat Cole, they do share many of the same attributes: a friendly and gentlemanly demeanor that permeates the music, a seasoned musicians' sense of timing and phrasing, a rich baritone voice, impeccable pitch control, and loving respect for and understanding of the melody, harmony, rhythm and lyrics.
This group's shared appreciation for the Nat "King" Cole Trio strengthens their friendship and adds profound substance to this fantastic CD.
1. The opener, Just You Just Me, was inspired by Cole's version found on his LP After Midnight. Dig the two shout chorus figures that typify the King Cole Trio sound.
2. The Man On The Little White Keys, with music and lyrics by Nat Cole, is a rare jewel that, as far as we know, has never been re-recorded by any other group. This is the first of five "gang" vocals on this CD and it belongs at the front end of the program with its speedy tempo and glad tidings: "Here we are together and we're in the mood to swing!"
3. Special guest vocalist Eddie Erickson is introduced singing Sweet Lorraine, one of Nat "King" Cole's signature pieces that he recorded several times over the years. Eddie sounds as if he's "as happy as a baby boy".
4. Next comes Nature Boy composed by 1940s "pre-hippie" eden abez. abez insisted on spelling his name with all lower case letters as he believed that, "Only God has the right to capitalize his name." The Paul Keller Trio's version of Nature Boy is quite different than Cole's. Cole sang it in a free and melancholy ballad style whereas the PK3 play it instrumentally with a driving latin beat. Listen, compare, enjoy!
5. Pretend is smooth and gentle. This one is pure Nat "King" Cole. Eddie's dreamy interpretation sets the perfect mood. "The world is mine; it can be yours, my friend, if you Pretend."
6. The title tune I Like To Riff is another groovy "gang" vocal composed by Nat "King" Cole. Extra lyrics by Steve and Paul were added to prolong the fun of this nifty ditty. "Ta ba ba dooda rah rah ba ba doodle ah. Riffin' is the thing for me!"
7. The wonderful original Nat Cole version of Calypso Blues was recorded with just voice and bongos. But the PK3 couldn't leave well-enough alone! So Keller created special, colorful harmony that adds a new, modern dimension to this tune. Calypso Blues has vivid imagery (and a few witty quips) within the framework of this sad story of a home-sick expatriate from Trinidad.
8. I Know That You Know is taken at a break-neck clip. This Paul Keller arrangement features a variety of tricky twists and turns, key changes and high-speed dare-devilry from all three trio members.
9. Ray Evans and Jay Livingston wrote the classic Nat "King" Cole hit Mona Lisa. Keller's bowed bass sings as he plays the theme with feeling and emotion. Mona Lisa lives on as one of the most beautiful "pop" standard melodies of all time. How amusing that Evans and Livingston also wrote the theme songs to the 1950s TV shows Mr. Ed and Bonanza!
10. Straighten Up And Fly Right is the song that catapulted the Nat "King" Cole Trio into the national spotlight when their 1943 Capital recording sold over 500,000 copies. Nat Cole wrote this "musical morality play" and based the lyrics on the theme of one of his minister father's sermons. Lessons are learned and more good, clean "gang" vocal fun is had by all. Sing along and fly right!
11. Eddie Erickson's lovely rendition of I'm Lost is tinged with sadness as he tells us, "My pet canary bird won't sing." I'm Lost is the kind of song that makes you feel that its OK to be unhappy…at least for a little while.
12. Paper Moon is one of the King Cole Trio's classic arrangements recreated here note for note...except for the improvised solos and the "gang" vocal that the PK3 and Eddie added to make it their own.
13. Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You was written by Jack Segal and Marvin Fisher in 1956 making it the "youngest" Nat Cole song on this CD. The trio lays down a relaxed bossa nova blanket upon which each member stretches out with comfortable solos statements. Here's another distinctive theme that will linger in your mind's ear.
14. The 1931 Madelyn Hyde and Francis Henry song Little Girl was a staple of the early King Cole Trio's repertoire. This Keller arrangement features cute interludes, great solos from Steve and Ralph and a zippy, harmonized shout chorus that jets the band into an uplifting modulation for the final hurrah!
15. All of the songs on this CD have strong connections to Nat "King" Cole except one: Steve Richko's The Beauty Of Rainbows. It is included here because The Beauty Of Rainbows seems to fit nicely into this homage to the King Cole Trio, even though this version showcases just piano and voice. The lyrics have clear and poignant imagery, the harmony is clever and the delicate melody is delivered so sweetly by Eddie. Dig the unexpected internal rhymes.
16. The final "gang vocal" of this CD, Bring Another Drink, tells the story of some fellows out for a good time with the ladies; then trouble ensues. The message is a reminder to "grease the wheels" before moving ahead too quickly.
17. Eddie sings the romantic love song I Love You For Sentimental Reasons with great soulfulness. The luxurious warmth of his tone is pure vocal gold. Delight in the ever-changing harmony that underpins this most familiar of melodies.
18. The closer Saint Louis Blues is a reminder of Nat Cole's starring role as "Father of the Blues" W.C. Handy in the 1958 motion picture Saint Louis Blues. Co-starring in Saint Louis Blues were Eartha Kitt, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Juano Hernandez, Ruby Dee, Mahalia Jackson, "Red" Calendar, Barney Bigard, Teddy Buckner, Lee Young, George Washington, Cab Calloway and a young Billy Preston. Steve Richko "greases it up" with a bluesy intro and a rip-roaring solo statement followed by Keller's two cents thrown in for good measure. The excitement builds and The Paul Keller Trio roars to a climactic finish, bringing down the curtain on this heart-felt tribute to one of history's greatest small jazz ensembles: The Nat "King" Cole Trio.
The Paul Keller Trio and Eddie Erickson wish to express their special thanks to the Executive Producer of WE LIKE TO RIFF, Brett Boneck for his support and guidance throughout all phases of this endeavor.