Jazz pianist and vocalist Nat King Cole (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965) was one of the few jazz artists to achieve widespread commercial success. On Thursday July 18, 2019, acclaimed jazz vocalist Integriti Reeves celebrates his centennial in the Kogod Courtyard as part of SAAM’s Take 5! series.
Interviewer Bertrand Überall has been a Take 5! volunteer since 2012. In addition to his work at SAAM, he also helps plan the Jazz in the Basement series at the DC Public Library (in conjunction with the Goethe-Institut), as well as the Jazz at UUCSS series in Silver Spring.
Where did your love and passion for music originate?
I’ve loved music my entire life. My grandfather had an amazing voice, my mom also has a beautiful voice and recorded her first CD when I was little, my Grandma is an outstanding pianist who taught music in North Carolina public schools for 35 years. She is also my piano teacher!
How old were you when you discovered Nat King Cole?
I loved "Unforgettable," I was about 4 or 5 when I could sing along to that one. I was blown away when I learned that he and his daughter Natalie recorded their respective parts of the duet years apart. It wasn’t until much later in high school that I discovered the depth of Nat King Cole’s repertoire as pianist and vocalist.
Nat King Cole is one of very few jazz artists to be so well-known by the general public. Why do you think he has such a broad appeal?
As someone who grew up listening to mostly classical, pop and R&B music, what drew me into Nat King Cole’s voice was his rich and clear tone. There was something about how articulate and resonant every syllable of each word was. There is also a beautifully unique combination of confidence and vulnerability. Those are qualities an audience can relate to.
How has Nat King Cole influenced you as an artist?
I steal from his phrasing all the time and I aim to be as clear with my diction as he was. Most of all, I love his subtle swing. It’s an easy kind of swing that’s not put-on or forced. It reminds me of watching water move and glide easily over rocks and ridges, in unique and beautiful ways.
How will you choose the songs for this concert?
I hope to take the audience on my journey of discovery of Nat King Cole throughout my life so far, starting with classics like "Nature Boy" and other well-known tunes, then moving into jazz and big-band material and the songs in Spanish. I will also be sharing bits of history that I’ve learned through my research.
Which other artists and styles of music influenced you?
I love straight ahead and modern jazz, Brazilian jazz, samba and bossa nova, for example vocalists such as Djavan and Elis Regina. I also love rap music and indie, folk, and classical music. At any given time, I will be listening to A Tribe Called Quest, André 3000, Joni Mitchell, The Shins, Emily King, Bach, Liszt, Miles Davis or Wayne Shorter! Anything that’s telling a story. That’s what I listen to the most.
Check out Take 5! with Integriti Reeves on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Check our calendar of events for information about other upcoming Take 5! concerts.