“I said, ‘C’mon you guys, sing something with me,’ and they just freaked out — but we had the best time,” Cole says.
Natalie is the not first artist to revive — and capitalize on — her father’s Latin legacy. In 2010, Cuban singer Isaac Delgado did an album of Nat King Cole’s Spanish-language songs, L.O.V.E., with musicians including his brother Freddy Cole, and in 2011, jazz saxophonist David Murray recorded Cole’s Cuban repertoire.
But Natalie brings her celebrity and intimate ties to Español. She has been seeking to connect with Hispanic audiences as a presenter at last fall’s Latin Grammys, a performance at the inaugural Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame gala in April and appearances on Spanish-language TV.
The album was produced by Rudy Perez, a Latin music veteran who has also worked on Spanish-language recordings with Beyonce and Michael Bolton. Perez, whose family came to Miami from Cuba when he was 7, says he grew up listening to Nat King Cole.
“These songs are iconic songs that we fell in love to, slow danced with a girl to,” he says. “A young Hispanic kid, when they want to connect with their roots, he wants to hear Celia Cruz and Vicente Fernandez and Carlos Gardel, because that’s the real deal. I think Natalie Cole will be cool with that generation just like Tony Bennett is cool with those kids.”
Like her father, Natalie does not speak Spanish, and learned the lyrics phonetically. But she did hear him rehearsing Cachita and Acercate at home and heard the language on family visits to a Mexican home owned by his Honduran manager, Carlos Gastel, who persuaded him to record in Spanish.
“As far as accents and phrasing, I gotta tell you a lot of it came naturally to me,” she says. “It really wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be.”
She found that the power of the music helped to propel her.
“Even though I was not very familiar with [the songs], with most of them I could sing them right away,” she says. “I could at least hum the melodies. Because they were so, not predictable, but there was something about them musically that made so much sense. … And the passion and romance in these lyrics are so very poetic — they’re so, so beautiful.”