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Nat King Cole is Reinterpreted on 'Re: Generations'

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The Roots, Cut Chemist, will.i.am, TV on the Radio and others take on the singer's hits. Carole Cole says her late father 'would be excited about this.'

It was 50 years ago that Nat King Cole went to Brazil and was greeted with staggering street-side ovations. “There was so much affection, it's hard to describe what it was like," said Carole Cole, one of the late singer's daughters. “It was almost like the entire population of Rio de Janeiro turned out en masse to welcome him and throw roses at his feet. He and my mother were invited to stay at the presidential palace. He was treated like royalty."

How surreal that must have seemed for the crooner who, despite his stately stage persona, was a firebrand figure in his home country, a sort of Jackie Robinson with orchestral accompaniment. Just three years before Cole met the cheering crowds on Ipanema sand, he got a very different reception in Birmingham: The slender singer was toppled from his piano bench when the North Alabama White Citizens' Council rushed the stage in a bizarre kidnapping attempt.

Cole had fame and fortune in America, but he also found malice -- that would be his last show in his native state or anywhere in the South.

“My dad was an agent of change throughout his life and career," Carole Cole said. “It's there in his music and in the way that he lived his life. That is one of the reasons we moved forward with this new project even though I knew that for the core Nat fan of a certain generation, this music was going to be really challenging for them."

That new project is Re:Generations, which takes signature songs by Cole and reimagines them through the prisms of Latin music, hip-hop, reggae and rock, and features acts such as the Roots, Cee-Lo, Brazilian Girls, Cut Chemist and TV on the Radio. The album, released last week, was executive produced by Carole Cole and Michaelangelo L'Acqua, and their approach was to give a free hand to participating producers. The result is a 13-track safari of sorts with remixes that might be jarring for longtime fans of Cole's graceful body of work.

90th birthday gift

“We had no idea what they would do," Carole Cole said. “As each track came in, I was amazed by the creativity and the respect and what they came up with. Our idea for the album was being fleshed out track by track. We wanted to musically bridge the so-called generation gap and hopefully create mutual admiration and respect between young people and their parents and grandparents . . . Dad loved music of all kinds and he would be excited about this. I'm sure of it."

Some traditionalists are less open to the exotic treatment of Cole, who would have celebrated his 90th birthday today. “In speaking to family, friends and peers of my dad, they gave me an earful when they heard the advance," Carole Cole said. “Some tracks made them absolutely crazy."

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