Natalie Cole Turns To Jazz

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Natalie Cole has been among R&B and pop's enduring voices for the past 25 years-and she's more than willing to leave those worlds behind. With her Verve debut, "Ask a Woman Who Knows" (due Sept. 17), Cole is ready to be a full-fledged jazz diva.

"I've always tried to put a jazz song on my records," she says. "In fact, my biggest success was basically a jazz record, 'Unforgettable.' At this point, rather than make myself crazy with the competition in the pop world -- I don't see the point in jumping around, putting stuff in my belly button, and doing strange things with my hair -- I'd rather croon. I like to concentrate on the songs, on singing."

For her full transition from pop star to jazz chanteuse Cole chose Verve. "If you can find something that not too many other people can do better than you, that's probably what you should do -- and that's what Verve does. They understand what this music is about. That it can be traditional, but fun."

Another draw to the Verve label was the production involvement of Verve Music Group chairman Tommy LiPuma, who helped mastermind the Grammy Award-lavished "Unforgettable." LiPuma produced "Ask a Woman Who Knows," on which Cole reworks little-known songs by famed artists.

"I'm so happy to work with Tommy again," Cole says. "Finding someone who knows this kind of music -- someone who has been around and is so much a part of it, has fun with it, but doesn't take it [too] seriously is so rare."

Verve president/CEO Ron Goldstein saw quality in the reunion of LiPuma and Cole, and he feels the market is "crying out" for a continuation of the 'Unforgettable' experience. "Natalie has legendary status worldwide," he says. "When everyone heard that it was, in essence, a continuation of their work, we knew right away this was going to be special."

The album's 13 tracks set a romantic tone, and Cole enlisted labelmates at Verve to deliver lush-sounding tracks, rich in emotional and musical depth. Guests include Joe Sample, Rob Mounsey, Russel Malone, Diana Krall, Roy Hargrove, and the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra.

"When making a record like this, it's about romance between all the artists," Cole says. "'Honey, turn the lights down low, and everybody think about sex -- get sexy, get sensual, and play and sing. Let it take you where it wants to go.' You don't have to force it when it's good like that."

As for the title -- "Ask a Woman Who Knows" -- what is it exactly that Cole thinks she knows? "I know about life, love, and relationships from all sides-good and bad -- and I believe that I've learned how to sing about it," she says with a chuckle.




Excerpted from the Aug. 10, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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