It says so much about highly Cuban singer Issac Delgado is regarded, that his new CD, “LOVE,” (Calle 54 Records), is the first tribute to Nat King Cole, that Cole’s brother Freddie Cole participated in. The album is centered around the three albums Cole recorded that were recorded for Spanish speaking audiences and includes several other Cole recordings that Delgado sings here in Spanish (some of the songs on this Cole recorded in Portuguese or English). Backing him is a rhythm section of pianist John di Martino; bassist Charles Flores; drummer Dafnis Prieto and percussionist Pedro Martinez. Also present are trumpeter Brian Lynch, trombonist Conrad Herwig and saxophonist-clarinetist Ken Peplowski who contribute to various of the twelve songs. Freddie Cole adds his English vocals to two of the performances. As Will Friedwald observes in the liner book, Cole sang Spanish and Portuguese phonetically when he recorded the three albums for Latin audiences, and recorded these albums in Havana, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City. This was a point that endeared Cole to these audiences, and even though Delgado was not even born when Cole’s albums were released, “he grew with them.”
I have not heard the original Nat King Cole recordings nor speak Spanish, but to listen to Issac Delgado sing is a joy through his intimate, sensual and romantic delivery which is matched by the marvelous musicians backing him. The rhythm section is sublime and adding the warm trumpet and flugelhorn of Lynch on the opening “Perfidia,” is magical. Peplowski’s clarinet helps set the tone on “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas/ Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,” one of the two duets with Freddie Cole who comes in after Peplowski’s solo and whose vocal provides an intriguing contrast to that by Delgado. “Tiernamente” is better known as “Tenderly,” and breaks from guitarist Romero Lubambo and pianist Martino help embellish the warm sensuality of Delgado’s baritone. The mood switches from the light latinized rendition of “Tiernamente ,” to the hot Cuban salsafied (to use Friedwald’s decription) of “Ay Cosita Linda,” with Martino’s brilliant arrangement and a fiery Lynch solo.” Then there is the bossa nova flavor of “Suas Maos” with some lovely trombone from Herwig, while on “A Su Mirar Me Acostumbré,” the lovely Spanish rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” only the rhythm section provides the sublime accompaniment. Freddie Cole opens “Green Eyes/ Aquellos Ojos Verdes,” with Peplowski providing some alluring tenor sax before Delagdo enters almost with as a whisper before again drawing the listener in with the sensualness he provides. The title track was one of Nat King Cole’s last hit records and opening with a bass vamp features spirited playing from Lynch that takes this performance to new heights.
In the liner booklet, Will Friedwald makes the claim that Delgado brought the “same combination of remarkable chops, musicianship and overwhelming, loving warmth that Cole himself brought to the songs of Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere … .” The music on “LOVE,” substantiates the claim. The combination of Delgado’s vocals and the exquisite accompaniments result in this being one of the year’s most enchanting recordings.
Review copy of CD provided by publicity firm for the recording label. Review has been published in September 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 329) at jazz-blues.com.