Ask A Woman Who Knows
, singer Natalie Cole's latest album, has a rather presumptuous title, doesn't it? But then that’s just it. On this album, Cole absolutely knows
what she is doing. Despite the fact that the title track is actually a song about love gone wrong, it makes an apt title for this album, and she’s sure to make waves with its release. The singer, whose distinct voice continues in the tradition set by her father, the late great Nat King Cole, is one of the few artists who can effortlessly swing between the different musical worlds of jazz, R&B, soul and pop.
Since the release of her last album Snowfall On The Sahara in 1999, Cole has completed her move to the Verve Music Group label. Ask A Woman Who Knows is her first release on Verve. The album reunites Cole with producer Tommy LiPuma, with whom she created the Grammy-winning album Unforgettable: With Love in the early nineties. For this album, Cole and LiPuma carefully handpicked a set of songs out of almost one hundred, some well known, others not, to which Cole applied that unique voice, capturing the poignancy of tracks like “I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do” and the joy of others like “Soon” and “You Are Mine You.”
In fact, the album is a stellar compilation of Cole's finesse, prowess and presence. She takes on tracks that have been performed by jazz greats and stamps her own authority on them too. Some, like "So Many Stars" by Sergio Mendes with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and "The Music That Makes Me Dance", made popular by Barbra Streisand, may be familiar. Others like "I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do" and the title cut (first recorded by Dinah Washington) are described by her website as “rare gems”. There's delight in her voice as she performs “Soon” and “It's Crazy”, both done big band style.
She duets joyously with label-mate Diana Krall, somewhat overshadowing her on “Better Than Anything”, a song that celebrates the sheer beauty and importance of love. It also proves that when two women get together, they will talk about shopping and shoes (“Say, Diana, is love really better than shopping??”, goes Cole). You can also feel the sincerity in Cole's voice on the Michael Franks track “Tell Me All About It”, and the acute longing in her voice on “Calling You.” Cole is accompanied on her musical journey by piano legend and label-mate Joe Sample, along with Roy Hargrove on flugelhorn, Christian McBride (bass), John Pisano (guitar), Rob Mounsey (keyboards) and Lewis Nash (drums) among others, as well as the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra.
If you love vocal jazz, and are an incurable romantic as well, this is the album for you. Not even the presence of songs like “Ask A Woman Who Knows” and “I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do” will spoil the magic of the album. If anything, they do well to remind the listener that love sometimes has its fair share of casualties. The album is sure to become a favourite for Cole's jazz fans and with good reason too.
Ask the woman who knows.
Personnel: Natalie Cole Vocal, Producer
Joe Sample Acoustic Piano
Rob Mounsey Keyboards, Arranger
Russell Malone Guitar
Christian McBride Bass
Lewis Nash Drums
Terry Trotter Acoustic Piano
Alan Broadbent Acoustic Piano, Arranger
John Pisano Guitar
Jeff Hamilton Drums
Diana Krall Guest Vocals
Roy Hargrove Flugelhorn
Gary Foster Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
Tollak Ollestad Harmonica
Larry Bunker Vibraphone, Percussion
Luisito Quintero Percussion
The Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra
John Clayton Arranger
Tommy LiPuma Producer