Recorded June 7th & 11th 1955 and August 23rd & 27th 1955
Nat Cole - Piano
Nelson Riddle - Arranger
Lee Gillette - Producer
"Easy listening it is, but again, 'easy' doesn't translate to the top-shelf level of musicianship, excecution or musical quality of this classy set."
For the third and final time, Nat the pianist was featured as star attraction on an album set, titled The Piano Style of Nat King Cole. For the first, King Cole at the Piano, Nat was featured as soloist in a then-familiar Nat King Cole Trio setting. On the second instance, Penthouse Serenade, a similar setting was used to present a semi-'cocktail piano' set. Whereas Cole's pop song vocals with orchestral backing tended to exclude his piano playing, this elegant set of jazz instrumentals uses a pop song orchestral context associated with his vocals to back a set of Cole playing piano. 'Easy listening' it is, but again, 'easy' doesn't translate to the top-shelf level of musicianship, excecution or musical quality of this classy set.
Nat wasn't phoning this in. At every turn we find Nat making clear choices of approach, ranging anywhere from minimal accents, to plain stated melody to intensive runs of his distinctly fluid improvisation at turns. While he is the featured attraction, he doesn't just play in a chart so much as play in the whole setting, freely playing accompanyment with the orchestra or as soloist depending on the passage.
Some are livelier big-band settings and some more sentimental orchestration, and the album alternates throughout to good effect. Although some of the orchestral style has dated for the worse, the band numbers are still crisp and Nat's playing is fortunately immune from adverse ageing. Considering that no further piano albums were forthcoming, it's a good thing that they really packed this album up, with a heaping 16 tracks. Despite the tight schedules to get all this in and the relaxed ambiance of the music, the quantity they undertook when given this chance is a reflection of their interest. They were certainly motivated.
Unfortunately, the buyers at the time weren't terribly motivated. A lot were pressed but not compared to any of his vocal records, and sales were very slow. As a result, Capitol, which was much less financially motivated in making and promoting Nat piano records than Nat pop vocal records, never again let him cut a non-vocal album, and he would play piano on only one more album, After Midnight.