Natalie Cole closes her eyes in rapture, swaying to the sound of a swelling studio orchestra, wrapping her voice around a lush rendition of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”—a song that is representative of the sumptuous orchestration of her new album, Still Unforgettable. It’s the long-awaited follow-up (17 years!) to Unforgettable: With Love, Cole’s blockbuster tribute to her dad, Nat King Cole. That album’s title song, an electronically crafted “duet” with her father, was an instant classic, and hopes are high that this fall’s album, which also includes a duet with Dad, will be a worthy successor.
The orchestra falls silent, but the singer still seems transported. “It doesn’t get any better than strings like this. It’s heaven,” Cole, 58, says later.
Her style, she says, echoes that of Nat’s friends—Nancy Wilson, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and Lena Horne. “They also had very cool personalities,” she says. “I emulated the way that they moved and the way that they dressed.”
As she scopes out the music scene, who does she like among the next generation of singers who hope to follow in her footsteps? “Diana Krall is one of the baddest out there, and Patti Austin. But girls in their 20s, well, I don’t know. They’re hard to find. They either oversing or they have no clue. I was very impressed when [longtime rapper] Queen Latifah did some standards. That was very brave of her. I like her tone, and if she works at it, I think she could actually kick a little behind.”