Still, he dismisses the notion that being Nat Cole’s sibling could be both a blessing and a curse, especially for a singer and pianist. “It could never be a curse. It was a blessing,” says Cole, reached in Switzerland, where he was performing as part of a European tour. “And I feel proud of myself. I proved to nobody but me that I was a man and I didn’t have to go around getting crumbs behind somebody. But I’m very proud of my brother… . As I tell people all the time, had there not been a Nat Cole there might not have been a Freddy Cole.”
Benson has been touring with Unforgettable since 2008, but this is the first time Freddy Cole will be part of the show. “George and I have been friends for many years,” he says. “And a couple of years ago we were at the Umbria Jazz Festival and he called me up on stage and we did a couple of things.”
For Benson, who has been including some of his own hits in the show, performing a tribute to Nat King Cole doesn’t mean simply singing his songs; it means embodying his approach and evoking a certain sound, a certain way of making music. “I’m trying to bring about the style of that musical era, the class of that time, because it all fits together,” he says. “It’s like a puzzle. If you leave a piece out, you won’t get it. You need Nat’s approach to make it all make sense.
“When he sang A Blossom Fell, you could see that blossom falling. He sang with such finesse. He didn’t just sing the words, he told a story and created an image so we could see ourselves in the song, and that made him exceptional to me. I was there in the story. There wasn’t one song that I’ve heard him do that didn’t have that effect on me.”