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North Central College hosts jazz tribute to Nat ‘King’ Cole

<p>NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Musician John Pizzarelli performs during an evening with The John Pizzarelli Quartet featuring Bucky Pizzarelli at Cafe Carlyle on April 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)</p>

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Musician John Pizzarelli performs during an evening with The John Pizzarelli Quartet featuring Bucky Pizzarelli at Cafe Carlyle on April 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Two jazz greats will pay tribute to a Kingon Feb. 28.

Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli will perform “Straighten Up and Fly Right: Nat King Cole Tribute” Feb. 28 at North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall. The performance begins at 8 p.m.

Composer, pianist and jazz legend, Lewis is a three-time Grammy winner and Chicago native. He is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award and has received five honorary doctoral degrees and has seven gold records.

Pizzarelli is a world-renowned jazz guitarist and singer who has recorded with artists such as Kristin Chenoweth, James Taylor and Donna Summer.

Together, they have created a tribute to Nat King Cole, the titan of ’50s vocal pop. The show features Cole’s hits like “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Route 66,” “I Love You For Sentimental Reasons,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “Nature Boy,” to name a few.

“It’s basically something that Ramsey and I put together because we both have a great admiration for Nat King Cole,” Pizzarelli said. “Ramsey came up with some arrangements that work within the framework that he likes to play, and I came up with some things that work within the thing that I like to play, so it’s really a fun combination of both our styles within one little band. We’ve been doing it around the country and it’s been very successful.”

He said it was fun picking out the songs. The two have been close friends since Pizzarelli opened for Lewis 20 years ago, and they’ve worked together along the way over the years.

“Putting together songs is an easy process when you have a friendship with somebody and you know what they want to do so it was really a lot of fun,” he said.

Jazz fans will appreciate the blending of their styles in Cole’s songs, he said.

“We’re not just playing the arrangements as we learned them. In some cases, there’s a nod to Cole’s arrangement, and in some cases Ramsey’s put something in that’s a little different but done really well. The foundation is the Nat Cole material, but you can really do a lot with it and we’re having a lot of fun with it.”

Lewis’ band will be joining them when they come to North Central.

Expect a great night of music from a couple of jazz masters, Pizzarelli said.

“You’ve got two guys who really love Nat Cole with a great band, and the music’s terrific, and it’s really a great night and a great tribute to one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time,” he said. “We have a good time playing it. I’m looking forward to the concert.”

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