Powerful Vocalist Nicolas Bearde Pays Tribute to Nat's 100th Birthday on "I Remember You: The Music of Nat King Cole"
Recording artist NICOLAS BEARDE has established himself as a powerful presence on the contemporary vocal jazz scene over the past couple of decades. His silky baritone, wit and engaging rapport captures and draws in audiences at his live performances.
I REMEMBER YOU: The Music of Nat King Cole is Bearde’s newest CD and the sixth he’s released on the Right Groove Records label. With his 2016 chart-topping release, Invitation, produced and arranged by Nat Adderley, Jr. and featuring the dynamic sax work of special guest, Vincent Herring, Nicolas cemented his place in the upper echelons of the jazz rankings, receiving stellar reviews. All About Jazz said, “Bearde's soulful and affecting baritone sits atop these impeccably tailored arrangements of sterling standards, and the results are absolutely stunning."
Bearde has long appreciated the music of Nat Cole, one of his earliest influences, and produced this album in celebration of Nat’s 100th birthday. Though the ten songs on this project are associated with Cole, Bearde breathes new life into the tunes with his rich, warm voice and supple phrasing, imbuing each song with his own soulful and romantic interpretation.
Bearde has had an extensive, varied, and fruitful singing and acting career. He’s loved jazz and R&B since his early years in Nashville, where he was born and raised. Leaving home in his teens, after a short stint in college, Bearde began singing professionally while living in Japan during his military service. Upon returning to the U.S., he spent a few years on the L.A. music scene before making his home in the San Francisco/Bay Area, where he began developing his jazz chops and a more intimate approach to performing.
While living in the Bay Area in the 1980s, his life veered in a different creative direction when he became part of Jukebox, a staged radio play starring Danny Glover. At Glover's recommendation, Bearde began studying with renowned acting teacher Jean Shelton, and a year later, he was cast in the Athol Fugard play "Master Harold"… and the Boys. He went on to book a continual stream of stage plays, and soon began to work in film and television, as well, including Final Analysis with Richard Gere and Kim Basinger, True Crime with Clint Eastwood, and the TV shows Nash Bridges and Monk.
While working on his various theatrical ventures, Bearde met singer Molly Holm and joined her eight-member group Jazzmouth, which was known for their vocal improvisation and close harmonizing. He connected with
Bobby McFerrin through his relationship with Holm, and in 1986, Bearde became part of McFerrin’s ground-breaking a cappella group Voicestra.
In the mid-90s, when Voicestra went on a years-long hiatus, Bearde and a few other members of the group created an off-shoot called SoVoSò. "We followed in the improvisational tradition of Voicestra, but added more gospel, Latin and R&B elements," says Bearde. SoVoSò went on to win numerous awards and honors, among them 1st place at the renowned CASA a cappella summit awards, and nominations for "Best Group" and "Best Album.” Bearde was nominated as "Best Lead Vocalist."
Bearde transitioned out of the cappella world to focus on his own music in the early 2000s, recording several albums between 2005 and 2016, which included original songs and inventive covers of jazz standards. In 2018, he was the featured vocalist on Vincent Herring's chart-topping CD, Hard Times, as well as vocalist and narrator with Herring’s Story of Jazz Orchestra, a 10-piece New York-based ensemble of jazz luminaries who travel the world, presenting Jazz music's 100+ year history.
For I REMEMBER YOU: The Music of Nat King Cole, Bearde brought on board some of the finest musicians living in Northern and Southern California. He recorded eight of the ten tunes with Los Angeles-based pianist JOSH NELSON at the helm. “I first heard Josh at Jazz Camp West, where we were both teaching. I didn’t know him but heard his music and went to see many of his performances. His playing was so fluid and lyrical…I knew we’d have to record together some day,” said Bearde. The Southern California band also includes ALEX BONEHAM on bass and DAN SCHNELLE and LORCA HART on drums. The Northern California band includes PETER HORVATH on piano, DAN FEISZLI on bass, and JASON LEWIS on drums.
Being a big fan of tenor saxophonist ERIC ALEXANDER’s phrasing and tone, Nicolas brought him out from New York as a special guest for this project. Alexander is featured on three tunes, “That Sunday, That Summer,” “Funny (Not Much),” and “Thou Swell.” Those songs were all arranged by Nelson, as were “Sweet Lorraine,” “The Rules of the Road,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Tenderly,” and “I Wish You Love.” Bearde and Horvath arranged “I Remember You” and “L-0-V-E.”
Bearde is a master storyteller. There is a certain elegance to his singing that makes the songs on I REMEMBER YOU: The Music of Nat King Cole, with their updated, hip arrangements, as fresh and evocative as when they were originally performed.
# # #
I REMEMBER YOU: The Music of Nat King Cole will be available in stores and online everywhere on August 30, 2019.