HUB CONCERT PREVIEW: An Unforgettable Nat “King” Cole Christmas

HUB CONCERT PREVIEW:  An Unforgettable Nat “King” Cole Christmas

By Michael P Coleman

If you’re a fan of holiday music, I think you’d agree that there’s nothing quite like Nat “King” Cole’s classic “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” to get you in the mood for the season. 

martin 300 1For the longest time, I really didn’t need to hear anyone but Cole sing that song.  Even his daughter Natalie’s version, as gorgeous as it is, falls a bit short.  But believe it or not, Evan Tyrone Martin, a 35 year old musical theatre actor from Chicago, has hit the yuletide nail on the head with a brilliant rendition of “The Christmas Song,” and he’ll be performing it, along with several other Cole favorites, in Folsom on December 2 in a new show, An Unforgettable Nat “King” Cole Christmas

During our EXCLUSIVE interview, Martin told me that he owes his love for the genre that Cole conquered to his grandmother. 

“My entire family is a group of singers,” Martin shared, “but my mother’s mother was at the helm of the music in our family, having sung in a few church choirs in Cleveland. She loved Nat “King” Cole’s music so much, and I literally used to sit and listen to his music with her.  So when I was asked to put a couple of Nat’s songs on tape, and I was offered the opportunity to do the show, it wasn’t like I had to go back and learn anything.  All of his music was just there!” 

After one listen, you’ll realize that Martin’s a man of his word.  It’s almost eerie to hear an artist so young display a total mastery of songs that were recorded long before he was born.

I asked Martin to give us a peek inside of his creative process, in developing A Unforgettable Nat “King” Cole Christmas

martin 250 2“I wanted to make sure I was being true to the way that Nat presented his music,” Martin shared.  “It wasn’t about being famous, and it wasn’t just about being on stage.  There was a presence and a softness and a very focused and pointed presentation to everything that Nat did with his music, so I really wanted to make sure that I was true to that.”

Martin’s done such a great job of capturing Cole’s vocal essence that I had to ask whether he also played piano, as the legend brilliantly did. 

“I do play piano, but it’s been so long since I’ve played in any serious fashion that I just leave that to my music director,” Martin laughed.  “She’s one of the best musicians I’ve ever worked with, and I’m really excited to be able to work with her and the incredible musicians she’s put together.  And because Nat was one of the greatest jazz musicians to have ever lived, it would be a long haul before I’d be good enough to play some of his licks.  I’m comfortable with the voice, so I’ll just stick to that!” 

As Cole was also known for his romantic standards,  I asked whether Martin planned to sneak any of them into the Christmas show in Folsom.  After all, nothing improves an evening of lovely music like a perfectly positioned sprig of mistletoe! 

“We do a really healthy mix of both Nat’s hit songs, like “Unforgettable,” “L-O-V-E,” and “Smile,” along with a heavy dose of a lot of his Christmas music,” Martin promised. 

Haul out the holly, baby!

Click here for tickets to An Unforgettable Nat “King” Cole Christmas featuring Evan Tyrone Martin.


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 Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com, of follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP