I guess everyone would have heard her love anthem ‘Miss You Like Crazy’, but one of my favorite Natalie Cole tracks was ‘Good To Be Back’. They were both from the 1989 album named after the latter song. Ironically a lot of ‘jazz’ songs (I use that term lightly) produced by Malaysia during that time had a very similar vibe to it. Maybe ‘Good To Be Back’ influenced more than this (then) young producer at that time.
Fast-forward to 1991. I had just gotten into the Berklee College of Music in Boston when I got the ‘Unforgettable’ album. What an album it was! It pretty much opened my eyes to what a great album should sound like and for many years, that CD was played over and over again. The physical CD itself now looks like it went thru a war and back. That was the extent of how much it was played, thrown about and then played again. Thank God it has now been converted (legally!) to mp3 format. Songs like Orange Colored Sky, Paper Moon & Route 66 remain firm favorites till today. Talk about timeless music.
Two years later- 1993. I get selected to be in the Berklee College *Commencement Concert band. That year, the recipients for Berklee’s honorary Doctorate Degree was Billy Joel & Johnny Mandel. Mr. Mandel was the music arranger for Natalie Cole’s ‘Unforgettable’ and even won the 1991 Grammy (Best Arrangement) for it. So I got to meet and play for the man behind the wonderful arrangement.
Fast-forward again to 2015. I am part of the David Foster band for his Asia tour and one of the artistes touring with him is NATALIE COLE. When I initially got the call understandably the name I was most psyched about was hers. On the day she was supposed to show up for rehearsal we found out she wasn’t feeling well. The high altitude of Genting Highlands did not help one bit. Thankfully she showed up for the show proper. I could clearly see the effects of her long illness, but the minute she opened her mouth… WOW! That silky smooth, remarkable tone of hers was there for all to behold. What a consummate professional. Even in her banter conversation with Mr. Foster, there was no hint of her not feeling well. On stage, it was ‘all systems go’! Young artistes, take heed!
Dear Miss Natalie Cole, your art has been part of my life and your music has taught me much. That brief encounter on stage has left me with a lasting manual of what it is to be an artiste at work.
For this, I thank you.
* This is the select student-band that plays at the annual graduation concert before Graduation Day.