When Carole Cole, Nat King Cole’s daughter, selected Collectors’ Choice to reissue Nat’s entire Capitol LP catalogue on compact disc, fans salivated at the prospect of having some of the most beautiful recordings in their personal collections.
Some of Nat’s LPs would be appearing on CD for the first time in the United States, making the compilation a must-have for serious collectors. Some selections would be packaged as “twofers,” placing two albums on one compact disc.
One such twofer contains Nat’s 1959 record Welcome to the Club and 1960’s Tell Me All About Yourself.
The cover art for Welcome to the Club is suggestive of the tone of the record, showing a smiling photo of Nat on the marquee of a posh nightclub and a starry-eyed couple on the front walk.
Joining with the Count Basie Band (but sadly not the Count himself) for this set of recordings, Nat made one of his most resolute statements to date. Welcome to the Club told the world that Nat had indeed joined another club and that his jazz roots weren’t the only offerings he could make to the world of music. He was now geared towards belting popular standards and would become an icon for doing just that.
Welcome to the Club features Gerald Wiggins subbing for Basie on piano (Basie had to sit out on the recording due to “contractual restrictions). Wiggins capably handles the compositions, but one has to wonder how disconcerting it was for him serving as the stand-in for one piano master while another one, Cole himself, looked on. The environment for the album is set effectively thanks to a determined performance from Wiggins.
The record is packed with traditional standards, running the range from “Mood Indigo” to “She’s Funny That Way.” The album’s amusing title track has Cole relishing the addition of a new forlorn member to the “club” and serves as a fine introduction.
The band alternates easily from splashy flurries to an effortless sway on “Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere,” a slow ballad that has Cole’s voice meld entirely into the immaculate Basie backdrop. And “I Want a Little Girl” uses bluesy swing to keep things moving.