June 11, 1984 12:00 PM

Carmen McRae

Long before he eased himself into the Hit Parade mainstream with such pop successes as Nature Boy and Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer, Nat “King” Cole was recording wonderful jazz with his trio. That distinctively smoky voice was an instrument in itself, of course, but Cole was also a marvelous piano player, full of lyrical drive and elegance. This album is a salute to Cole by an old friend and admirer, in the form of songs associated with his trio days. McRae herself has never sounded in better voice—or more interested in what she’s doing. It’s a fresh-sounding batch of songs too, including Cole’s own I’m An Errand Girl for Rhythm, as well as the regretful title tune (by Bobby Troup), that standard of unrequited love, If I Had You, and the deliciously nonsensical Frim Fram Sauce. The rhythm section backing McRae includes her own estimable pianist, Marshall Otwell, and guitarist John Collins, a Cole sideman for 14 years. The album is the best kind of tribute, a reminder not only of how good Cole was then but how good McRae is still. (Concord)

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