With a bass, a piano, a drummer, a guitar and a singer, Lakewood Cultural Center will soon erupt in tunes of Nat King Cole and his jazz quartet with the help of the Colorado Jazz Reperatory Orchestra and singer Robert Johnson.
“We’re addressing the jazz-curious, and we’re providing them with gateway music. And it really works,” Founder and Executive Director of CJRO Art Bouton said.
While they don’t often play series based solely on one artist, the band does play themed shows, like “Great Ladies of Jazz,” playing songs by artists like Ella Fitzgerald. According to Bouton, the Nat King Cole series came about because “Robert Johnson just does it so well.”
Johnson, a professional singer since 1982, focused on R&B previously, but slowly warmed up to Big Band tunes, first starting to sing with the CJRO on and off four years ago.
“What I always try to do when I do these tunes in particular, I really want to put it in as close to the context of what he did with his own little trio,” Johnson said about Feb. 26’s Nat King Cole show. “His trio became the standard to what a jazz trio still is today.”
“He was one of the premiere jazz pianists of his time,” Johnson continued. “If this becomes something where people want to find out a little more about him, I’m glad to be doing it and doing a little introduction.”
For this concert, it’s “just Robert Johnson singing the music of Nat King Cole with a quartet: piano, bass, drums and guitar,” Bouton said, with the band playing their own arrangements and some original works too.
“We will include original works, provided they fit the theme and the groove and the feel of the concert,” Bouton said. He gave an example of Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and how they reimagined it with a funky New Orleans feel. “We’ll start with a theme, we’ll start with a song, but then we actually start improvising as we are writing the tune."
The band orchestra itself started almost 10 years ago.
“I started this group as a cleanse for every bad musical experience I’ve ever had,” Bouton commented. “The goal was to create the finest music with the finest musicians, and then pay them for rehearsals and for the gigs, and treat everybody with respect.”
Beginning at Lone Tree Arts Center, the orchestra has grown enough to do just that.
“We pay the arrangers to write the arrangements and pay them very well. We pay the musicians to play, we even provide a meal between sound check and the concert. That doesn’t sound like much but it’s a big deal,” Bouton continued. “The last three albums, everything on them, every tune, is either an original composition or an arrangement by someone in the band.”
Tickets for the show can be found on CJRO’s website.
“Anything that will get people to come through the door and appreciate the form is a good thing,” Johnson said.