One of my favorite albums my father raised me on is the 1952 staple “Unforgettable” by jazz legend, Nat King Cole. “Unforgettable” is an engaging jazz orchestral album that truly lives up to its name. I haven’t forgotten it, and I hope the world never will.
The album opens with the title track. “Unforgettable” is a classic orchestra jazz piece with silky smooth piano. This track is part of what makes the record so timeless. Just about everyone who has any connection to music knows this romantic ballad because it truly is “unforgettable in every way,” as the lyrics suggest. For a more modern, fun and fresh take on this classic, Cole fans should check out the re-mastered version of this album by Cole’s late daughter, Natalie Cole. In her version of “Unforgettable,” she recorded alongside old tracks of her father’s and added her own duets on top. You can really hear the love and respect she feels for Cole, both as her father and as an artist who significantly influenced her life and career.
The rest of the tracks all tell a story, and Cole takes on each role with ease. In “Jennie” he is an older gentleman hopelessly in love, and the track is full of beautiful slides, vocals and accompaniment.
“What’ll I Do” is a track sung by Cole and written by Irving Berlin. Bubbling with sensual jazz guitar, it is reminiscent of a wedding singer performing the first slow dance for the two sweethearts. The beautifully simple guitar solos and steady rhythm bring out those intense emotions of one of the highest points of love.
My favorite track on the whole record is “Answer Me, My Love.” The tender choir performs the best melody of all the songs and makes you feel like you are living within an old Italian love film. Italian love films are some of the most ideally romantic, and this whole album fits perfectly into that motif. “Answer Me, My Love” is a true ballad, exploding with striking emotions portrayed through the combined power of voices of Cole and his brilliant backing chorus.
Though not my personal favorite on the record (even if it is close to the top), undoubtedly the most entertaining is “Hajji Baba.” It is a lively and upbeat mixture of cultures. This track was written for the film “The Adventures of Hajji Baba,” which tells the story of a young Persian man who is in search of a grand fortune. In the meantime, he meets a princess and becomes close to her as he escorts her to her soon-to-be husband. In this song, Cole does a really good job of including the traditional sounds and instruments of the Persian culture and infusing them into his jazz repertoire. Soft drum taps and sitar sounding wind instruments bring the Persian landscape to the mind’s eye.
Cole takes on the role of a young man making his way through the desert of love in the emotive “Too Young.” A childlike love story, within this song Cole takes on the role of a starry-eyed lover and perfectly conveys the pure affection. It is truly amazing how easily the singer can change his voice to fit the character of each specific song.
The childlike themes continue in the song “Pretending,” in which Cole brings you on a journey to the world where anything you can imagine will come true. The fantasy is too real for the listener, and my father used to lovingly refer to Cole as the “Peter Pan of jazz” when I was younger. That magical nickname came about in our household because of this tender tune.
But finally, the song on this album I feel cements Cole into the “greats” of the jazz era is “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons.” With minimal background instrumental, this piece highlights Cole’s pure and clear voice and allows it to shine brilliantly. With the swells of his voice perfectly matching the swells of the melody, this track locks in Cole’s true status as one of the best crooners of musical history.
This album takes listeners on an amazing journey through the history of jazz over all borders. If you want to experience pure jazz glory, give this album a good listen the next chance you get.