If you go
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26
Where: Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples
Tickets: 239-597-1900 or thephil.org
For Natalie Cole, the smell of Estee Lauder perfume and the thought of Southern pies and biscuits bring memories of her mother and father.
The daughter of Nat “King” Cole is used to being asked about his influence in her career. Fewer people remember her mother, Maria, was a singer with Duke Ellington’s orchestra in the 1940s and a big influence in Cole’s music. Not to mention her preference for wearing long gowns when performing, Cole said.
Nat “King” Cole died of lung cancer when Natalie Cole was 15. Her mother also died of cancer, in July. She was 89.
The singer talked about her memories of her parents during a phone interview. The voice on the other line was as melodious and soft-spoken as in songs like “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love).”
The 62-year-old will release an album in Spanish in the spring. She said she has had the project in mind for 10 years and was inspired by Spanish recordings by her father, with whom she performed her famous posthumous duet “Unforgettable” in 1991.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Many people ask you about your father’s influence. How did your mother influence you musically?
Cole: I think not only musically, but actually physically. Just the way that I dress. She always had such elegant clothes. I was always at her closet. When I started singing I think I was one of the first R&B singers to do gowns because my mom liked gowns.
She influenced me musically because she sang with Duke Ellington as one of his background girls. So they knew people like Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington. She introduced me to Nancy Wilson and she had great taste in music.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories of her?
Cole: One of the things that always reminded me of my mom is the perfume she used to use called Estee Lauder. That’s the smell that I love. I spray it around the house.
I think one of my favorite memories was when we went on a vacation. We went to London and then we went to Monte Carlo (Monaco). We were flying on a plane and the pilot said, “We are going to have to divert. We cannot go through Italy to get to France because there’s some kind of political things going on and we are going to have to go around.”
My mom turned to me and said, “Why don’t you go and tell the pilot you will sing ‘Mona Lisa’ (from Cole’s album ‘Unforgettable’) so maybe they will let us fly Italian airspace?"
Q: Did you sing it?
Cole: No. (Laughs) It was just such a funny idea to think that could actually influence them. I thought it was so cute.
Q: Your posthumous duet with your father, “Unforgettable,” was a hit and you sang another duet with him in your 2008 album, “Still Unforgettable.” Do you try not to overuse his music?
Cole: You can’t overuse and overdo it. It turns into a gimmick, and I don’t ever want it to turn into a gimmick. I still want it to be artistic and beautiful. I think I’ve done maybe four duets. There’s “Unforgettable," “Walking My Baby Back Home,” “When I Fall in Love” and “The Christmas Song.” I try to do it sporadically and in a classy way so it’s not overdone.
Q: You father was known for his Christmas music. How do you feel when one of his songs comes on the radio during the holidays?
Cole: I just love it. It just brings such a warm feeling into your heart when you get home and you start putting on Christmas music. Everyone used to say when I was growing up, “It’s really not Christmas until you hear Nat ‘King’ Cole sing ‘The Christmas Song.’ I think it’s so true. There’s something about that song and Dad’s voice. It’s just evokes such a warm feeling.
Q: When he died you were only 15. What do you remember the most about him?
Cole: My dad loved to eat. I think I got my appetite from him. He was a Southern man from Montgomery, Ala., and he would always bring home a lot of great syrups and pies. He loved biscuits and honey. But he always loved sardine sandwiches. Where did that come from? I have no idea.
My dad loved to eat. We would go to baseball games and eat hot dogs. He would teach me how to score a baseball game. I couldn’t go to another baseball game after he died. I have been since but it must have taken me probably 15 years. He was a great sports lover.
Q: I’m surprised you eat a lot given you have such a slim figure.
Cole: I know. I’m just lucky. I just have a crazy metabolism. But I can’t eat like that all the time.
Q: Is scoring hits still important to you today when you record an album?
Cole: Absolutely. I think of it as musical education. When I started doing the “Unforgettable” record, that was a big eye-opener. A lot of artists started doing more American Song Book-type of things or even doing duets posthumously with different artists. I like to think of myself almost as a trendsetter, and I think that whenever I do something I like to be influential.
Q: Was it hard to sing in Spanish for your upcoming record?
Cole: It wasn’t that bad. I was supposed to have a coach, but my accent was pretty decent. So my producer just helped me. He is a Cuban gentleman.
Q: What kind of music have you been listening lately?
Cole: I listen to everything from gospel music to R&B. I have (pop-rock band) Maroon 5 on my phone as one of my ring tones. I love Adele. I’m listening to a lot of Spanish music, too.
I was at the Latin Grammys. Even (rapper) Pitbull came out and did something with somebody.
Q: I would not have imagined you like Pitbull.
Cole: I know. But you know what? He dresses up very nice. Doesn’t he? (Laughs) ... I really wasn’t all that hip to him, but he was very cool. He came out and did some great stuff.
Q: You got a degree in child psychology from the University of Massachusetts before you started singing professionally in the 1970s. What did you plan on doing with it?
Cole: It’s funny that you asked. I was planning on opening a clinic and music was going to be part of my therapy. That never happened, obviously. But I just started looking online at some psychology programs to get my master’s and Ph.D.
Q: Do you plan on opening a clinic?
Cole: If I can just get a master’s degree and a Ph.D., then I’ll figure out what I’m going to do. This has been a dream of mine since I was in college. I really wanted to work with young kids up to 16, 17 years old. It’s something I feel I missed out.
One of these days I might just have the name “doctor” in front of my name. Wouldn’t that be something?
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com