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Review: AARON AKINS Goes Smoothly INTO THE COLE at E Spot Lounge

On Friday October 23 at the E-Spot Lounge upstairs at Vitello's, jazz, soul, R&B singer Aaron Akins delivered his striking Into the Cole show in honor of the music of legendary Nat King Cole. It is so rich to hear someone that can replicate with such class the smooth, distinctive, unforgettable sound of Nat King Cole. I came early and was seated during sound check. Akins was so nice, asking if we could hear everything OK. This is a performer who cares about his audience. Like Cole himself, he is there to sing for you. Even during the actual set, he asked the sound/light man several times to dim the lights onstage so he could see beyond the footlights. "I like to see my audience!" What a really warm, engaging performer!

Akins was backed in the 70-minute set by a fantastic three-piece band: musical director Chris Glik at piano, Bobby Barron on drums and Ravi Knypstra on bass. Interesting to note that Cole developed his style gradually over time, as he did not start out as a singer. Highlights of the evening included, among Cole's super hits: "Mona Lisa", "I Love You For Sentimental Reasons", and "Sweet Lorraine" that Akins acknowledged "With this song, Cole knew he could really sing". There was of course Cole's own brilliant composition "Straighten Up and Fly Right", so playful and melodious, Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song", which was written for Cole's unique vocal delivery, the curiously appealing "Nature Boy", and the also singable "Route 66". I must note that Akins doesn't copy, but seems to have an uncanny ability to produce the same high-pitched vocal stylings of Nat King Cole. He doesn't force it one single bit; it appears to flow out of him naturally; if you close your eyes, the similarity between the two men is remarkable.

Also on hand were the gorgeous "You Stepped Out of a Dream", "Fly Me to the Moon", "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup" and "Love". Akins sang an original composition by Henry Nemo, with whom he had collaborated on an album, entitled "Was It Really Like That?" and then one of his very own "I Haven't Tried You". Both songs had that natural laid back quality that Cole would have enjoyed singing. There was a great singalong to "When You're Smiling" and then as encore "Unforgettable", a tune that both Nat and Natalie Cole have gotten lots of mileage from over the years. It's just so lush and delicious to listen to, as are all of Cole's well-written tunes, which tell simple stories and express emotions without ever going over the top. To me, Cole was to singing what Will Rogers was to storytelling. Both men just did it, and while they were at it, you were completely engaged, mesmerized by the simplicity of it all.

At an early age Akins was told by a singing coach that his voice was a cross between Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis. He sounds equally good in person and on disc, which is not always the case for many singers. But his charismatic, easy style just pours forth, making the experience one you won't soon forget. Like Cole himself, Aaron Akins is unforgettable!

To purchase Aaron Akins' CD Love Is All Around, which has a few of the Cole tunes on it, go to:

and to visit his website, go to:

As far as Vitello's the restaurant is concerned, the food is superb... and the service, quick and friendly.

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From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                            ... (read more about this author)