BWW CD Review: Nicolas King ON ANOTHER NOTE Strikes The Right Chord
"On Another Note" is a CD title that can be taken in a variety of ways, depending on a listener's point of view. The second album for singer Nicolas King is a departure from his first CD "Nineteen," seven years earlier. The first offering by club and concert crooner King featured a big band feel with an orchestra offering backup on the mostly upbeat, swinging album, while the newer disc dials it way back, with King singing tender ballads to the introspective accompaniment of only Mike Renzi, a rather legendary Maestro with masterful abilities at the piano. The difference between the two albums offers a broad scope of King's ability and personality, to say nothing of the way an artist's work grows as they do, for it is clear that in the years between CDs, Nicolas King came into his own, as a singer and as a man. Where once stood a brash young Broadway baby (literally), appeared a grown-up person who had learned some things about himself and about life - two sides of one person. On Another Note.
The quiet, sensitive, and poignant CD features a song list of tunes made famous through performances by the great interpreters of The Great American Songbook, icons and legends whose work might intimidate others of today's artists, possibly trepidatious about standing in the shadow of their predecessors; not Nicolas King. With spectacular arrangements, the style for which Mr. Renzi is known and respected, Mr. King steps firmly out of those shadows, making the famed melodies and lyrics completely his own, telling each musical tale as though it stems from a place so deep inside of him as to convince the listener that he is singing about something that just happened to him. If his performances are informed by his experiences listening to Peggy Lee's recording of "Where Can I Go Without You" or Bing Crosby's version of "Skylark," it doesn't show. King has wrapped each composition around him like it's a new creation, written especially for him, for him alone, for nobody else. On Another Note.
Nicolas also takes a mild risk by singing so many love songs originally sung by celebrated women - not a new thing, as men and women have been trading tunes and changing pronouns for years, as well they should. Sometimes, though, a song that is so well-known by the world can sound slightly out of sync when alterations take place - it doesn't always scan, giving the performance a sense of falseness, of being out of place. For this writer, the strongest example of this is Frank Sinatra's recording of "The Gal That Got Away." Nobody could blame Sinatra for wanting to sing the Harold Arlen torch song, one of the greatest ever written, but it feels uncomfortable. There are those songs that glide, with ease, between the genders, and King makes bold choices here with Streisand's "The Way He Makes Me Feel," Merman's "I Got Lost In His Arms," and "Will He Like Me?" which was made famous by both Barbara Cook and Barbra Streisand. In the hands of a lesser skilled singer, there might be an element of coyness or self-consciousness at the changing of pronouns to fit their gender qualifications in a love song, let alone one made famous by a legend, but not for Mr. King. So confident is he in his talent and his personality that it becomes empowering for the listener, hearing him take these prominent pieces of musical poetry and make each of them, gorgeously and gloriously, his own. On Another Note.
What isn't new on the CD is the quality of King's craft. With standouts on the album like an emotional "On Second Thought/Here's That Rainy Day" and a serene "A Time For Spring," Nicolas works a kind of magic that relaxes the body and the psyche, like a kind of musical massage releasing all the tensions and cares of the day. Not yet a 30-year-old, Mr. King is a twenty-year veteran in the art of performing, and while he is an actor of supreme skill, he seems to have a special connection to music and to the art of musical storytelling. With one of the most supple and sensual voices, tenacious in its timbre and sweet of sound, King possesses a particular knack at phrasing, one that often will inspire the listener to sigh, smile, and maybe shake their head in appreciative wonder. It is a gift that is especially well-matched in his professional partnership with Mr. Renzi, a man who has shared his genius with some of the greatest the industry has ever known. With the CD "On Another Note" it is patently clear that the team of King and Renzi is another one for the record books - long may it last, and plentiful be the bounty of music it creates, whatever the note may be.