Natalie Cole – Ask a Woman Who Knows

Natalie ColeNatalie Cole
Ask a Woman
Who Knows
(Verve – 2002)
by Carmen Miller

Ooooh yes, this is nice. It’s been three years since Natalie Cole released a studio recording, and it was worth the wait. ‘I Haven’t got anything beter to do’ and the title track ‘Ask a woman who Knows’ are jazz-ballads in the classic Billie Holiday tradition. Her cover of Michael Frank’s ‘Tell Me All About It’ is tinged with a Latin flavor and delivered sassy-cool. There are a couple of genuine big-band songs (It’s Crazy, Soon) but her strength here is the jazz ballad. Her playful duet with Diana Krall on ‘Better Than Anything’ is one for the ages.

Some of the credit for the success of this CD lies with the quality of the musicians that back her… Joe Sample, Rob Mounsey, John Pisano, Christian McBride and Lewis Nash …world class musicians for a world class project, and a string section to boot! The haunting ‘Calling You’ from the soundtrack to the 1988 film, ‘Bagdad Café’ show her R&B roots, but there’s little other attempt to ‘cross over’ with any of the songs on this CD, this is one for the jazz crowd. On ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ you can picture Natalie in the dim, smokey nightclub, the band in dapper suits sitting behind as she sings and swings.

‘Ask a Woman Who Knows’ features songs recorded previously by great singers like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, Carmen McRae, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, and Nat “King” Cole. Natalie Cole’s performance here helps cement her place among those greats, confirming that the King’s daughter is truly a princess of the jazz world.