When Nat, as head of The King Cole Trio, was establishing himself in LA, becoming a fixture of Hollywood & Vine and vicinity, he initially found some work recording transcriptions for radio for a number of companies prior to his success with Capitol and their assumption of transcription activity for the Trio. Nat and gang spent years available as radio transcription session musicians to accompany other aspiring singers who seem to have settled in the area for a time, ranging from obscure to literally unknown today. Ain't that life folks.
Among the parties interested in working with the Trio in those years, the best results creatively were, in my opinion, the efforts with Ida James. But the most interested may have been Anita Boyer.
Anita Boyer was a "band canary" (as lady singers were sometimes termed) for a number of major big bands at times, including the great Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw bands, and might have hung around the area between such stints. Possessing a solid and clear voice with an equally solid grasp of technique, she was able to effectively sing both swing era jazz novelties and ballads.
With the Trio behind her, the focus leaned toward balladry with some "swingers", the Trio typically purely in support but occasionally featured as a more active duet with instrumental breaks, some unison singing and in some cases Anita and Nat take turns for the vocal duties. Appearing on some tracks as well is one Bob Dukoff, Anita's husband at the time, on tenor sax. Their efforts were probably received as a pleasant serenade over the radio. To be candid though, as nice as these are, it may be said her forte was as a vocalist with the swing-era big bands.
Of those I've heard a grand total of three stick in my mind. The ballad I'm In Love With Someone is particularly well done, both in Anita's vocal and Nat's arrangement; the song is all the better for being ran straight through without a repeating chorus and the arrangement briefly features opening and closing notes that produce a kind of detuned, semi-discordant effect, framing the mood. The specialty What'cha Know Joe features both Anita and Nat taking vocals, with the Trio also doing double-duty as vocal group; the result is rather good, Anita having excellent timing, Nat being beyond hip, the Trio unison vocals (singing "What'cha know Josie?" to her) ideal and the playing, at a rapidly bouncing pace, as delightful as your typical Trio classic. A frequently covered swing-era novelty, A Little Jive Is Good For You finds Anita extolling the virtues of um, jive dancing, yeah, as a tonic for what ails ya, with Nat singing some secondary lines as well and an intro and instrumental break straight out of the Trio mould.
Anita Boyer and The King Cole Trio recorded quite a few sessions together, ultimately cutting many times more numbers than they did in accompaniment to anyone else. Apparently these sessions occurred during 1941 and again during 1944. Today we may miss the point (thankfully) but it may be seen as all the more remarkable when one considers the situation in many areas of the country with regard to race relations. This was the early 1940s, they were black and Anita Boyer was an attractive young white lady. They of course would seem to have been completely cool with it, but there were many who wouldn't have been in many areas, with most groups careful to appear racially segregated at the time. I'm not aware if this limited the markets for these sessions, particularly where both Anita and Nat can be heard singing on the same track, but it's good to see that harmonious projects like these were happening.
Perhaps shrewdly on business and social counts, most if not all of their sessions were issued credited to Anita Boyer & Her Tomboyers (the King Cole Trio, with the occasional trumpet or sax augmentation, being Her Tomboyers). Perhaps also worth mention is that Anita and Nat were willing to share songwriting credit for at least one tune, a blues they worked out titled Windy City Blues. It seems some other cats took the role at times, as some sessions sometimes credited in discographies attributing accompaniment to the Trio evidently feature a distinctly non-Nat-ty pianist. Still, both the number of their sessions and the sharing of songwriting credits at least once suggests to me that they were pleased to work together.
Selections of Anite Boyer & Her Tomboyers aka Anita with the King Cole Trio are, or perhaps we should say were, most readily available on the Music & Arts compact disc release, The King Cole Trio: The MacGregor Years, 1941 - 1945 (CD-911, 4 CDs). Some 33 tracks were included; there are at least several more.
While the video is available at YouTube, here is Anita Boyer on film, singing Mad About Him Blues as "band canary" for Jerry Wald and His Orchestra.