In his musical career the jazz saxophonist David Murray has always been omnivorous, which helps explain why, after playing on more than 150 albums, he has finally turned his sights to the Nat King Cole repertory.
But Mr. Murray's taste can also be quirky, which is why his latest project focuses on a relatively obscure phase of Cole's career: two albums that the singer and pianist recorded in Spanish in 1958 and 1962.
Nat King Cole was not only one of the first African-American guys on TV, he was also one of the first serious crossover artists with talent," said the jazz saxophonist David Murray. A result is David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole en Español," a new CD in which Mr. Murray, 56, has assembled a group of young Cuban musicians to play his reworked versions of old chestnuts like Quizás, Quizás, Quizás" and Cachito." On Thursday Mr. Murray and a nine-piece band will perform selections from the album at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University.
In an interview after a recent rehearsal, Mr. Murray, who is black, said his reasons for undertaking the project were a mixture of the personal and the musical. Seeing a picture of Nat King Cole on the wall of Egrem Studios while in Havana several years ago, and talking about him with the Cuban singers Omara Portuondo and Isaac Delgado, jogged his memories of seeing Cole on television as a child.
My parents were very religious people who didn't particularly like anything that was jazz," he said. But they liked Nat King Cole because he was a positive image for black people, and that was what they wanted us to see. And to me he looked very cool and debonair in that tuxedo, with that trio of his. He was not only one of the first African-American guys on TV, he was also one of the first serious crossover artists with talent."
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