Jazz Journal reviews STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHT: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole by Will Friedwald

Jazz, cinema, and crime fiction writer Bruce Crowther reviews the book in October 9th’s Jazz Journal, writing:

Importantly, in building an understanding of his subject, Friedwald explains how Cole’s career did not just happen. Almost everything he did was carefully thought out in advance. … Turning to the man’s music, it is when Friedwald writes about the songs that his attention to detail is most visible and valuable. He takes dozens of examples and carefully analyses how these songs are played and sung and in so doing demonstrates the care and professionalism Cole brought to everything that he did. He also discusses the important contribution made by arrangers, including Ralph Carmichael and Nelson Riddle, and fellow musicians, notably his near-telepathic playing with Oscar Moore. However deeply Friedwald probes, his writing style is clear and his examination of the man’s music is always understandable, even for a non-musician. Among other matters that are examined in this always interesting, often revealing biography, are instances of a songwriter bringing a song to Cole for him to glance at it almost perfunctorily and then say and apparently do nothing for weeks before introducing it into his repertoire as a fully rounded masterpiece. ...This book is a valuable and immensely enjoyable addition to the library of all who are interested in jazz and popular song of the mid-twentieth century and the story of a man who was a master of both genres.

Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole is published by Oxford University Press.

Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair,  Playboy magazine and other publications (and reviews current shows for Citiview). He also is the author of nine books including the award-winning A Biographical Guide To The Great Jazz And Pop Singers; The Great Jazz And Pop Vocal Albums; Sinatra: The Song Is You, A Singer’s Art; Stardust Melodies: A Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs; Tony Bennett: The Good Life; Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies; and Jazz Singing. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.