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Music Review: Re: Generations

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Jazz, swing, and the blues are the cornerstone to pretty much all our modern music. It has certainly morphed from its original roots, but rock, hip-hop, pop, and all their sub-genres can attribute some part of their style to the smoke filled lounges of the 20s and 30s. However, while today’s music has the indistinguishable jazz flare, the CD Re: Generations, which will be released on March 10, 2009, presents an obvious mix of both the original style and the modern, creating a tribute to one of the most brilliant artists of his time, Nat King Cole.

Born Nathaniel Adams Cole, this well-known jazz singer has enchanted many over the past 90 years. You’d probably recognize him from his performance of “Unforgettable,” “When I Fall in Love,” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” but Cole was a hard-fighting innovator. Even during the Civil Rights era, he hosted his own TV show, “The Nat King Cole Show” and refused to perform in segregated venues.

His music and the freedom and rights of African Americans have each come a long way. And Re-Generations is a tribute to both with artists such as The Roots, Cee-Lo, will.i.am, Natalie Cole, Nas, and many more.

“With Re: Generations, we want to musically and visually bridge the so-called generation gap,” says Carole Cole, Nat King Cole's daughter and CEO of King Cole Partners & Productions. “Who knows? This project may be a cool catalyst that inspires a new kind of dialogue between the generations.”

In my opinion, this CD does just that. Many of the songs have ingeniously mixed both styles — the smooth, cool jazz with clean, up-beat hip-hop. But you don’t necessarily have to like either to enjoy this. With the unique mix of jazz piano, big band solos, and rhythmic bass and drums, Re: Generations has almost created a genre in itself.

My favorite song on this album is “Lush Life.” To me, it doesn’t sound hip-hop, but it doesn’t sound anything like the original either. It almost has a dance quality with a solid beat and added synthesized sounds. The best songs are the ones that are hard to separate. You don’t know what’s added and what’s not. The piano in “Straighten Up and Fly Right” sounds original, but Natalie Cole’s beautiful duet and producer Will.i.am’s fantastic beat mix seamlessly and greatly compliment the Nat’s version.

Some other highlights include “Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere,” “Day In – Day Out,” and “El Choclo,” in which the Brazilian Girls sing responses to Nat who asks if he can give them a ride. The end result is amazingly hilarious. These tracks and a few others make this CD absolutely brilliant. However, there are a few that do not equally mix both sounds, such as “Hit that Jive, Jack” and “Calypso Blues.”

They’re still very good but have an overpowering modern quality with Nat only giving small choral interludes. “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” is an amazing piece with a smokey jazz hall feel, except at the end when all of a sudden the band drops out and The Roots rap. Songs like these do not achieve the amazing mix. And that mix is what makes this CD so good.

I say, if you can put up with the songs that missed the mark, RE:Generations is still a very wonderful album. I love that our generation can keep Nat King Cole popular and modern by adding our own style. I hope with CDs like this, Nat’s brilliance can entertain us for many more generations to come

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About Janica Unruh