Straighten Up and Fly Right-The Music of Nat “King” Cole starring Clint Holmes and Billy Stritch
Straighten Up and Fly Right-The Music of Nat “King” Cole
Clint Holmes and Billy Stritch
Feinstein’s at the Nikko, July 18, 2019
What better way to celebrate the 100th birthday of the phenomenal talent of Nat “King” Cole then this collaboration of two of America’s finest song stylists Clint Holmes and Billy Stritch. Opening with a duet on the 1943 hit “Straighten Up and Fly Right” (Nat King Cole and Irving Mills), Stritch and Holmes exchanged verses and seamlessly blended their tenors on the choruses. They joined again on the humorous Daniel Barker, Henry McCoy Jones, and Michael H. Goldsen novelty song “Save The Bones for Henry Jones”.
Holmes, a two-time 2018 Grammy nominee, took the first two solos with a sensational rendition of Cole’s 1948 recording of Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy” highlighted by the vibraphone wizardry of Musical Director Christian Tamburr. He took on Cole’s most famous signature song “Mona Lisa”, an Oscar winner for Best Song for 1950’s Captain Carey, USA. Holmes lends an R&B feel to his jazz offerings, offering a genuine authenticity to the lyrics. The rhythm section of locals John Wiitala on bass and Greg Wyserpratt on percussion equaled the piano melodies of either Stritch or Tamburr, who wrote all the arrangements.
Stritch, who rose to prominence through his longtime collaborations with Liza Minnelli and Tony Bennett, showed why he’s the heir apparent to Bobby Short with beautiful vocals on the bluesy “Meet Me in No Special Place” (J. Russell Robinson, Harry Pyle and Arthur Terker) and the touching Jimmy Van Heusen / Sammy Gallop hit “Somewhere Along The Way”. Stritch loves a great lyric and like his mentor Mel Torme, draws the feelings from ballads with ease and sophistication.
The two would combine vocals and high energy on “L-O-V-E”, “Orange Colored Sky” and “Route 66”. Christian Tamburr is an acclaimed pianist, musical director and vibraphonist. Downbeat Magazine recognized him with the “Outstanding Solo Jazz Performance” award and he’s a five-time “Critics Choice Top Rising Star” award recipient on vibraphone. He is currently musical director, pianist and arranger for Clint Holmes and the synergy between the two and Stritch is dynamic and exhilarating.
The show closed with “Unforgettable”, “When You’re Smiling” and Nat’s favorite tune, “Smile”. Stritch, Holmes and Tamburr are stars in their own genre’s and adding in the songs of the great Nat King Cole make a formidable quartet.