top of page



Music Review: Cabaret Queen Natalie Douglas Begins Her Beguine At The Beginning With Her New Single BEGIN THE BEGUINE

Once This Beguine Is Begun, That Beginning Is The Living End.

by Bobby Patrick Jan. 7, 2024

Heigh Ho, dear lovely rainbow tribe, welcome back to Bobby’s CD sandbox where we offer our broken-down breakdowns of new music releases. So, strap in and get ready, as Bobby goes on the record ABOUT the record.

This week’s music entry in the BobbyFiles comes from the lady herself, cabaret’s queen, HRH Natalie Douglas, who has just released her new version of an old, old standard, Cole Porter’s BEGIN THE BEGUINE. Written in 1935 for the Broadway Musical JUBILEE, the response to the song and its initial recording was meh… Long(ish), complex(ish), minor key(ish) - it just didn’t grab the public’s ear very much. Then, in 1938, Artie Shaw (in collaboration with his arranger/orchestrator Jerry Gray), recorded the iconic version that sold millions of copies and was played coast to coast by his band and others and on every music radio station in the country, for years. Shaw once joked, “If we don’t play BEGUINE, we don’t get paid.” The song is as vital a part of our musical Americana as RHAPSODY IN BLUE, used on television (both in commercials and scripted shows) in movies, and on muzak systems globally. Soldiers and their partners danced to it from day 1 of World War II through VE & VJ days 4+ years later. One wonders, then, why, with this overflowing trove of BEGUINE treasures, would Natalie Douglas bother with yet another recording of BEGIN THE BEGUINE, and the answer is because… Natalie Douglas. Because Natalie Douglas deserves her crack at the iconic tune, because it’s a great song for a reason, and because Natalie’s fans deserve to hear it in her inimitable voice and style.

Performance-wise - There’s no one like Natalie. Her smooth and creamy opening notes put you in a good place, knowing you’re about to hear something… well… good. This version is a true big band rendition after the fashion of Shaw who, as we said, popularized the song beyond expectations. For Douglas, she plays it all close to the vest, with her voice taking the place of Shaw’s clarinet. Her tiny subtle vocalises are nice surprises, as she practically whispers the first verses. She opens up at the refrain and starts to give us “THE VOICE” but she’s tricky like that, and she slips in and out of THE VOICE and back into the soft silky tones she began with. Her final notes - well, you just have to hear them, my angels… you just have to hear them.  This is all pure COLE, and in Natalie’s performance you hear the story of a real woman who’s been ‘round the block remembering the passion of a torrid past affair. Webster says The Beguine is, “a popular dance of West Indian origin, similar to the foxtrot.” So this rumba beat conjures the romance Natalie recalls automatically upon hearing that particular rhythm. If you ask ballroom folk, they will tell you the rumba is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire, and it’s all right here in all things Natalie Douglas.

For those of you who read Bobby (and we certainly hope you ALL read Bobby) you know that, at this juncture in reviewing a single, after talking about the performance of the singer and the story we are taking away from that performance, we like to write a few thoughts on the Lyrics and The music. Well, what can Bobby say about those except… Cole Porter.  The arrangement here, by Joel Mott, is most definitely a call out to the big band era, and while these are some pretty terrific orchestrations, no wheels are being re-invented on this recording which, in turn, gives it a cool pastiche, a retro flavor, if you will. In other good news - this second single released on December 29th is from Natalie’s upcoming debut album for the Club44 label, BACK TO THE GARDEN, scheduled to be released next month. The album’s first single, TRUST IN ME, was released in September (see below). The album is being produced by Wayne Haun with Joel Lindsey and Sharon Terrell serving as executive producers. Orchestrations are by Wayne Haun, with Joel Mott providing big band arrangements.
As for this BEGIN THE BEGUINE, Natalie Douglas uses what has come before and adds her own brand of polish to a vintage fave, and that’s all right by this little writer, and so Bobby happily gives the lady a rousing…
5 Out Of 5 Rainbows


Music Review: Singer Sings A Sexy, Slinky, Slithery Single With Natalie Douglas' New Release TRUST IN ME
Pythons Gonna Python & Diva’s Gonna Douglas.
by Bobby Patrick Oct. 11, 2023

Heigh Ho, dear lovely rainbow tribe, welcome back to Bobby’s CD sandbox where we offer our broken-down breakdowns of new music releases. So, strap in and get ready, as Bobby goes on the record ABOUT the record.

This week’s music entry in the BobbyFiles comes from one of NYC’s top Cabaret mavens, the fabulous Natalie Douglas who, just this week, released her own single of TRUST IN ME. Penned by the legendary Sherman Brothers for Disney’s 1967 animated feature THE JUNGLE BOOK, the song was introduced by Disney perennial voice actor Sterling Holloway - most famous for giving vocal life to Winnie The Pooh. In THE JUNGLE BOOK, Holloway’s character, Kaa, is the slithery sidekick snake to the villainous tiger, Shere Khan, and, with TRUST IN ME, Kaa attempts to mesmerize young Mowgli with his spinning eyes and soft, sinister lullaby, in order to make a meal out of the moppet. In the intervening years, the song has been recorded nearly 30 times by singers as far-reaching as Holloway’s fellow JB cast member Louis Prima, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Selena Gomez, and, in the most recent JB remake, playing Kaa, Scarlett Johansson. So, in the last 50+ years, the song has gotten some mileage… not a lot, but some. The songs I WANNA BE LIKE YOU and THE BARE NECESSITIES, from the same film, are far better known than this eerie tune, BUT it is Halloween and that could well be the Diva Douglas’ motivation for this release. Whatever the reason, ND’s version of the song is most definitely one that rivals Holloway’s creepy AF original, in seduction factors and musical interpretation. Have a listen…

Performance-wise, Natalie is smooth as silk, liquid, and seductive. She has perfect vocal control even in this almost-whispered song, making sure that not a single note is passed over in favor of her vocal production. She lulls, slithers, and caresses with the words and notes, making hers as hypnotic as this hypnotizing song has ever been. Her deep tones are nice, but it is her soft mid-range notes that sustain and seduce. Douglas is a gifted jazz singer, and the jazz overtones in this recording are in the rhythms of the drums and upright bass, giving the feeling of walking slowly through Disney’s Jungle, in their take on Kipling. The whole vibe is jazz-infused but with a bounce to it, despite the oh-so-slow tempo. For the lyrics… Richard Sherman was primarily the composer of the music for their songs, and Robert, primarily, the lyricist, but both wrote music and lyrics through their co-careers and, for this one, they chose a very simple (and short) verse: 

Trust in me, just in me
Close your eyes and trust in me
You can sleep safe and sound
Knowing I am around

Slip into silent slumber
Sail(ing) on a silver mist
Slowly and surely your senses
Will cease to resist

Just relax
Be at rest
Like a bird In a nest

Trust in me, just in me
Close your eyes and trust in me


Creepy - AmIRight dear Bobby readers? But Natalie Douglas ain’t no python, and her rich voice makes it all so very sexy that one can hardly stand it. If there is a story to be told in this recording, it is most definitely that of a bold woman eyeing a conquest, knowing she will seduce them into giving her all she wants. 

THE JUNGLE BOOK was one Disney film among many for The Sherman Brothers, who produced more motion picture song scores than any other songwriting team in film history, and while TRUST IN ME is a little more obscure than the hit tunes from the film, it is one that sticks with you, with its relentless musical slithering and the hypnotic rhythms, it gets in your ear and under your skin. Personally, my pets, Little Bobby has periodically found himself humming this one out of the blue, through the years, since seeing it in the 60s, and kudos to Douglas for picking it up, for it is a bold choice to record such a ssssssensuous ssssssong and so we award her a nice…

4 ½ Rainbows Out Of 5


Review: Natalie Douglas's Passion Infects During Her JUNETEENTH JUBILEE at Birdland Jazz Club

The performer's fiery personality brought the audience to tears and later to their feet as they sang and clapped along.

by Chris Struck Jun. 22, 2023

Nothing you could say about Natalie Douglas would sound superlative or over the top, for those who have heard her remarkable voice. At the same time, she warms the room, making it feel as if there aren’t a hundred or so people waiting to hear her sing. To have had a corner seat for the show, I had the perfect window to see members of the audience wiping tears away from their eyes after almost every powerful iteration of her astounding repertoire, from the very first lines of “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free” by Dr. Billy Taylor. For this particular show, she brought in an enormous array of influences she often referred to as examples of “black excellence,” and it’s easy to place Douglas among the very best to have sung, including her often-mentioned idol, Nina Simone, the parallels of whose personal journey underpinned much of the story of this show. In combining all of these influences, Douglas reached throughout a vast array of material to characterize Juneteenth as a celebration of togetherness, faith, and perseverance for an ongoing fight.

The talented singer, Douglas, dubbed her show a 60’s Juneteenth theme, because “that was the last time [Juneteenth] was really heard of before it [recently] became a national holiday.” Still, the holiday was celebrated with gusto in Texas, where Douglas described it as strongly a church holiday, strengthening the community with songs of the spirit. In much the same way as you could imagine one such church celebration involving singing and dancing of all who gathered, Douglas’s infectious spirit lured many to sing and clap along to her, even before she beckoned them forth to do so. One such example of an “earworm” that Douglas tied between the many events of rights and faith was “Down at Stonewall” where the singer/songwriter spins the tale of meeting Jesus at Stonewall, where “he didn’t seem the least upset” about love being love. Similar to those times, Douglas brought the show back to real and ongoing events that still re-inspire her and had many truisms to say, catching a clap from the audience, between her many jokes. If the weight of the history of this movement hadn’t weighed so heavily, she may have focused more on the laughter she sparked up like embers between every song, and leaned into her comedic quality, but other lines brought the message back to reality, such as “if only America loved black people like they love black culture.”

One such example “of a modern moment connecting to an old song” was also one of the most brilliant performances by Douglas on the evening. It was that of “The Death of Emmet Till” by Bob Dylan. Douglas’s incredible range and fiery passion like the waves of her hair singed the cage around any heart, as she sang the line, “this boy’s fateful tragedy you should all remember well.” As is often the case with seeing a performer as talented as Douglas perform, it’s almost impossible to select one song from the next as better than another. From the powerful message of “Why?” by Gene Taylor to how the same event, MLK Jr's death, inspired “Blackbird” by Sir Paul McCartney; with each moment the audience could feel the very real heat of history in the stories Douglas shared of how these innumerous events had inspired people around the world to use their platform to sing of freedom and faith. When she mentioned that she “used to do this for the cats and the stuffed animals” it let the tension loosen just a bit, once again revealing the warmth everyone who knows Douglas can expect. Yet that same warmth clearly heats up for songs with such a deep emotional connection, such as “Four Women” and “Mississippi Goddam,” each by Dr. Nina Simone, who eventually left the United States because it “had broken her heart one too many times.”

From stuffed animals to bringing tears to the eyes of a packed house, Douglas was quick to point out she was aided in her journey by many. She pointed out members of the staff, the owner of the venue, the man on the lights. None were more key than her talented musicians, which included the sheer delight of Jakubu Griffin on drums, the talented Jonathan Michel on bass, stalwart Brian Nash on keys, and top-class music director, Mark Hartman at the piano. Set to release a new CD soon, Douglas’s voice is pure and vibrant, reaching across pitch and emotion with the ease of a feather on the wind, even while carrying the heaviest of messages.

Front Row Center
Natalie Douglas - Juneteenth Jubilee at Birdland

by David Walters Jun 21, 2023 RATING 97%

This is the second year that Natalie Douglas has spent Juneteenth (one of her favorite holidays, for obvious reasons, as she says) at her Birdland home where she has been performing for 20+ years. The thirteen-time MAC award winner is a powerful singer with as much power coming from within as without. Her spirit matches her voice exposing an infectious stage charm that bubbles over onto the audience and coats us with warmth as she brings her love of life with her to the stage and thickly spreads it all around.

As she said, there were a million songs that could have been in this show. The set of 13 songs that she settled on dealt with freedom (defined as being the absence of fear) in one form or another. Each one is strong on its own, but together they provided a powerhouse of an evening. I honestly have to say that I will walk a little differently on this planet after experiencing this show. The heart behind the selection of her song list for the evening struck as strong a note as her singing, so I’m going to share that with you:

Natalie started us off with the appeal “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” and set the simultaneous, both somber and joyous, tone for the evening.

Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” came deep from the heart, springing from one of its possible creation origins (Black woman living in a southern state). I will never listen to the song the same way again.

“Farther Along” was a soulful hymn where Natalie was vocally accompanied by her band that blended harmonies and brought a churchlike serenity.

“Reverend Lee” was a strident ballad that dragged us to hell and back.

“Union Label/If I Had A Hammer” The old TV commercial song was partnered with the Pete Seeger standard where everyone joined in singing along and gave me goosebumps in how the crowd was brought together with this song in a shared experience, each bringing their own personal connection.

“Down At Stonewall,” Natalie warned us that the haunting refrain may never leave our heads, and she was right.

“Four Women” was a jazz journey of truth thanks to Nina Simone.

“Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)” The story behind this song is of this country breaking the heart of Nina Simone one too many times causing her to settle elsewhere for the rest of her life.

“The Death Of Emmett Till” was a Bob Dylan ballad that took us on a journey where we didn’t want to go.

“Mississippi Goddam,” the infamous showtune where the show hasn’t been written for it yet.

“Black Like Me” is a song more than half a century removed from “Mississippi Goddam” but still saying the same thing.

The Tina Turner hit “River Deep, Mountain High” was driving in its delivery.

“This Little Light/Now!” This may seem a bit superfluous, but if angels in heaven sing like this, I want to go. The linking of “This Little Light” and Lena Horn’s “Now!” (written for her by Jule Styne in order to top Sinatra) left us all with a heavy heart, but joyful in hope and community.

Her band not only brought their musical talents to the stage in support, but they also brought themselves which was evident in the joy of playing together for Natalie and with each other. Music Director Mark Hartman on piano, Jakubu Griffin on drums, Jonathan Michel on bass, and Brian Nash on keys.

This was a concert that I wish everyone I have ever known would have been able to attend as I found the song choice and the delivery to be sublime, part of the soul of the people of this country.

Mark your calendar for next Juneteenth at Birdland.


TheaterPizzazz Review

Natalie Douglas – Juneteenth Jubilee, Birdland Jazz Club, NYC

by Marilyn Lester Jun 21, 2023

In what was possibly one of her most magnificent cabaret shows to date, Natalie Douglas proverbially blew the roof off Birdland with A 60s Songs Juneteenth Jubilee. The power of her golden voice, the on-point song choices, the narrative, and a quartet of master musicians, combined to create a deeply emotional experience of entertainment laced with social consequence. “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live,” said Nina Simone, as quoted by Douglas. This concert surely met that criterion—and it wasn’t a one-off. Douglas has long been a voice for social justice as well as an entertainer. This was her second annual Juneteenth Jubilee at Birdland.

Dressed in a bright red frock, the official color of Juneteenth, Douglas was, as always, a sparkling, cheery, humorous and welcoming presence. It’s hard to resist her charms, but why would you? In her music, in the choices and lyrics, she gets down to business; her on-point deliveries tell all that there is to know about her deeper intentions. In this case, Juneteenth, a very new Federal holiday, the focus was multipartite, of past and present pain coupled with hope and celebration. Of course, we learned about the history of Juneteenth. The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, but compliance wasn’t immediate. Flash forward to the end of the Civil War, when Major General Gordon Granger traveled to Texas to proclaim freedom there on June 19, 1865. The holiday has been celebrated since, mainly in Texas (until recently) and, originally, mostly church-based.

And so this particular Juneteenth Jubilee began with that spiritual emphasis, such as in “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” (Dr. Billy Taylor) and “Farther Along” (W.A. Fletcher). But ever the educator, as well as possessing a wide vision of equality and humanism, Douglas broadened her choices to include music about labor and LBGT+ rights before coming in to hit hard about racism and the particulars of the Black experience. One of the most “fun” and pointed songs of the evening was “Down at Stonewall” (Jallen Rix), a catchy tune with a killer refrain in “I saw Jesus down in Stonewall” (“meanwhile, in the Church, Jesus is a no-show”).

Well-positioned in the middle of the set were two of the most gut-wrenching songs of the evening. When the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, musician Gene Taylor committed his immediate reaction to paper. Eventually, those words became the lyric to “Why?” (The King of Love Is Dead). In 1958, 14-year old Emmett Till was abducted, tortured and lynched in Mississippi, after being falsely accused of offending a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. Bob Dylan’s “The Death of Emmett Till” was heart-rending, powerfully delivered by Douglas, who smartly followed it up with one of her staples, Nina Simone’s emotional cry of outrage, “Mississippi Goddam.”

Finally, entering into a rising arc of joy, and in tribute to the recently passed force of nature, Tina Turner, Douglas belted out a superb “River Deep, Mountain High” (Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich). Ending with a few bars a cappella of the traditional “This Little Light,” Douglas launched into a rousing “Now!,” which celebrates the collaboration between Blacks and Jews in the Civil Rights movement. The lyric was written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden to a Jule Styne arrangement of the traditional “Hava Nagila.” These dynamic last two tunes had the audience (sold out and with many cabaret luminaries present) clapping and rockin ‘. Truly, this Juneteenth Jubilee was a concert for the ages.

Last, but certainly not least, the show owed a large portion of its success to the all-star band backing Douglas. Her music director of 26 years, Mark Hartman, was absolutely on fire. His arrangements were perfection and his pianistic skills knew no bounds, with glissandi and other techniques bringing the music alive. He inhabited the notes and the tunes in much the same way as a singer can inhabit a lyric.

A terrific touch was Brian Nash on keys, emulating a Hammond B-3, the classic organ of R&B, funk and rock, among other genres. His skills brought another dimension to many of the tunes. The two musicians powering the rest of the rhythm section, Jonathan Michel (bass) and Kakubu Griffin (drums), completed the tight unit. And it was a joy to hear these cats sing backup on a few of the numbers. 

Natalie Douglas – A 60s Songs Juneteenth Jubilee took place on Monday, June 19 at Birdland Jazz Club (315 West 44th Street, between Eight and Ninth Avenues)

Front Row Center

Natalie Douglas - I Just Might at Birdland

by Edward Kliszus May 24, 2022 RATING 95%

The vivacious, marvelous, ebullient, incomparable cabaret artist Natalie Douglas has a wonderful history at the Birdland Jazz Club. The club honors her by proudly displaying her portrait on their wall of fame. Tonight, Douglas was accompanied by pianist and music director Mark Hartman, with whom she has enjoyed a long artistic relationship.

She took care to announce Hartman’s status as a Drama Desk nominee. It’s not surprising, as Hartman is the accompanist par excellence. He commands finely crafted subtle and dramatic pianistic support so a singer can fully express a song’s meaning freely. Utilizing the full range of the piano, one might describe him as a pianist who creates the full range and colors of an orchestra with his keys.

The audience was packed with Douglas’ loyal followers. As she introduced songs and told anecdotes of her mingling with the likes of Dolly Parton, Lena Horne, or Roberta Flack, people nodded and smiled in affirmation. She projects a sentimental, nostalgic, and caring persona and each song she sings creates a warm, safe, embracing space. Balancing her view of life through song is her sense of humor, a sweet smile, and joie de vivre.

Douglas reminisced on past greats like Nina Simone, Lena Horne, and Rosemary Clooney. She honors them through song, story, and remembrances.

Time and space are forgotten as people sigh, smile, and react to the sadness, love, longing, hope, joy, or regrets expressed in the selections chosen for tonight’s performance of a show entitled “I Just Might.” She possesses the soul of an angel and soothes the broken or bitter heart as she comforts and instills hope.

Her song list is a misty, nostalgic walk through the past. It included I Must Have That Man by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me by Irving Berlin (she dedicated this to Rosemary Clooney, whose birthday is today), This Girl’s in Love With You by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, That’s the Way I Always Heard it Should Be by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, Unforgettable by Irving Gordon (dedicated to Nat King Cole), And I Love You So by Don McLean, I Just Might by Dolly Parton, Heart of the Matter by Don Henley, Why? (The King of Love is Dead) by Gene Taylor (dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as sung by Nina Simone two days after King’s death), and Standing Knee Deep in a River by Bob McDill, Dickey Lee and Bucky Jones.

Douglas expressed sincere, extended appreciation for her audience, the staff of Birdland, and for her husband Billy Joe Young, who was present this evening.

After a well-deserved standing ovation, Douglas sang two encores: This Little Light of Mine (a special arrangement of this gospel tune using the melody from Hava Nagila), and the beautiful gospel song His Eye Is on the Sparrow. Another standing ovation!

Natalie Douglas ‘Sammy’ at The Pheasantry | Review
by Chris Omaweng FEBRUARY 26, 2022

There was a lot to Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990), whose popularity played its part in improving race relations in the United States. Natalie Douglas speaks with enthusiasm in a show simply called Sammy, and at length, describing in detail certain key moments in Davis’ life and career in between musical numbers – and without notes. One need not have read up about Davis at all before seeing Douglas’ show, for all is explained, and at the same time those who are very familiar with his life story will find enjoyment in hearing it all again, such is Douglas’ level of engagement with the audience.

Natalie Douglas

It isn’t a sugar-coated account, which makes it credible – an emphasis on the ‘s’ in the word ‘wives’, for instance, is a subtle acknowledgement that Davis didn’t always marry for love. Interestingly, his first and third wives were white, and in the mid-Sixties, when he was in a Broadway production called Golden Boy, a musical based on the play of the same name, he played a character who had relations with a white woman, which attracted its fair share of controversy, social attitudes at the time being what they were.

In 1954, a fork somewhere along Route 66 was the scene of a nasty accident. A driver had taken the wrong turning at the fork and had decided to reverse her car in order to correct her mistake. In Douglas’ version of events, it was foggy, so Davis did not see what was going on in time and slammed into the other driver. In the centre of the steering wheel of his Cadillac was a metallic horn button which was dislodged on impact and struck his left eye, such that he could only ever see out of his right eye.

Mark Hartman was at the piano, gliding through an eclectic mix of songs, ranging from the joyous ‘Sing You Sinners’ to the dreamlike ‘Hey There’ from The Pajama Game to a gorgeous, if different, rendering of Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Mr Bojangles’. The last two numbers were polar opposites. ‘The Candy Man’, Davis’ only Billboard number one single, was a song he didn’t want to record initially – he just didn’t like it. This was followed by ‘Ol’ Man River’, from Showboat, about a black man who is weary from injustice as much as he is from overwork: as Douglas notes, it’s a problem that has yet to go away.

There were local references, too – Davis had come to Britain multiple times over the years, including an appearance at the 1960 Royal Variety Performance. He also featured in the 1968 West End production of Golden Boy, the first book musical to play at the London Palladium. Not every show at the Pheasantry bothers with an interval: the quality and quantity of material in this concert more than justified having two acts. Douglas’ vocal range is remarkable, her stage presence is magnetic, and her performance an utter delight.

Review: Natalie Douglas Defies Explanation in BEST OF TRIBUTES: THE WOMEN at Birdland Theater

by Karis Rogerson  Oct. 05, 2021

Natalie Douglas was excited to be on stage. She was returning to Birdland Theater on Oct. 1, 2021, in "Best of Tributes: The Women", with a show that sampled songs from tribute shows she had previously created for Dolly Parton, Nina Simone, and Roberta Flack. The award-winning performer was in excellent spirits as she came onto the stage and greeted the audience. Missing a cue at the beginning of the first song, she laughed it off, restarted, and dove into Dolly Parton's "9 to 5," which was a perfectly exuberant and jaunty song to kick off the evening.

Douglas is a vibrant performer; she inhabits the stage as though it's just a couch at her best friend's house, exuding comfort and easing into conversation. She truly makes you feel like she's having a one-on-one conversation with you, not putting on a show for a packed house. It seems as though she is fully herself in front of the audience; there's no hint of artifice or showmanship, just an extremely talented woman bestowing her voice on her friends. As she was about to launch in the 12th song, the "final" song, she joked about how of course it wasn't really the last song of the set, as there would be an encore. She teased the audience about it being a cabaret open secret and joked as if we were all friends so she could be honest with us.

Between Douglas and music director Mark Hartman, the amount of talent on stage was honestly intimidating. Many of the songs held moments in which Hartman could show off his skills and it was truly a beautiful collaboration between the two. Douglas often smiled in the middle of her songs, indicating just how pleased and joyful she was to be performing this set.

When introducing "House of the Rising Sun," a song that has been covered many times by many different artists, Douglas shared that her favorite version was Nina Simone's. She showcased her huge range and impressive ability to hit super low notes as well as big, powerful tunes in one song. Her take on "Jolene" was absolutely stunning, a true celebration of Dolly Parton's artistry and original work that nonetheless has a very "Natalie Douglas" spin on it. She also sang "Tryin' Times," which Roberta Flack, whom Douglas described as the "queen of duets," performed with Donny Hathaway.

When she sang "Farther Along," a hymn that she said "sums up the Eastern definition of karma, but in Christian," the layers of meaning in the lyrics bled through her voice. Douglas' voice is rich and resonant, perfect for songs like that one. She also spoke about Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam" after singing it, sharing that Simone wrote the song in 30 minutes as an outpouring of rage over attacks on Black people in the South. Douglas expressed awe at Simone's "genius" and the "magic" that it took to take rage and horror and turn it into something beautiful.

The encore song, "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face," ended the night on a magical swing. Douglas is the kind of performer who is hard to review, because she's so undoubtedly talented and good at what she does - the singing, sharing, entertaining, all of it - and frankly how can my words do her music justice? They can't: she has to be seen to be believed.



This 2005 CD is as good today as it was the day it came out... maybe even better.

by Stephen Mosher  Nov. 19, 2020

Natalie Douglas is one of the great entertainers, a singer whose name should be on a list with Nancy Wilson, Judy Garland, Diahann Carroll and Sammy Davis Jr. - this writer's personal favorites. Oh, and Nina Simone. New Yorkers have had this little gift from Natalie Douglas for a couple of years now, her ongoing concert series TRIBUTES, where Ms. Douglas has sung the music of Nancy Wilson, Judy Garland, and Sammy Davis Jr. The Birdland-hosted shows are constant sellouts and Natalie Douglas always delivers the goods, and then some. With the holiday season upon us, the truly perfect gift from Santa Claus would be a collection of CDs from each of the Natalie Douglas Tributes shows, but since that doesn't exist, let it be said that this CD homage is more than enough.

Natalie Douglas TO NINA... LIVE AT BIRDLAND is actually not a recording from the Tributes series - it was recorded in 2004 for a 2005 release, years before Douglas had the idea to do Tributes; still, it is hard not to think of the show as a part of the series, maybe even the place where the idea was born - and why not? This isn't just a good album, it's a great album, and it's one of the most entertaining, well-produced, enjoyable live albums you may ever experience. Clearly, Ms. Douglas has a deep attachment to and appreciation of Ms. Simone - it shows in every note sung, every word spoken, every moment preserved on the recording.

Listeners who aren't up on their Nina Simone, don't be embarrassed - not every singer can be on your radar, even when they are famous to the extent of legendary status. Everything has its own time, and maybe the time for you to meet Nina Simone hasn't surfaced... until now. Listeners who don't know from Natalie Douglas, don't be worried - you can meet her today. In fact, this album will make Nina Simone fans out of Natalie Douglas devotees, and Natalie Douglas aficionados out of Nina Simone disciples. There is no greater way to appreciate the expertise of two different musical artists than to dive, face first, into this concert recording. Both Douglas and Simone are fully represented on this hour-long disc in their mutual, beautiful glory. Indeed, it is entirely possible that Natalie Douglas should be the woman to take up the Nina Simone torch because both women share considerable traits, from their talent to their beauty to their passionately outspoken quest for equality in all its forms. This is a perfect marriage of talents and like minds.

One of the things that makes Natalie Douglas great is that she knows who she is and contentedly allows herself to be that. At no time does Douglas attempt to sound like Simone or to use her interpretations and inflections. Natalie Douglas is her own woman and her own storyteller, and she isn't here to do anything the way anyone did, who came before her. This is about her love for Nina and Nina's work, and that love is apparent from start to finish as she performs some of Simone's most famous recordings ... the Douglas way. And thank goodness because Natalie Douglas has a voice that is so pure, so pretty, yet so versatile that there are times when one might wonder if this is the same singer, from tune to tune. You become aware that you are listening to a voice that sounds as clear and calm as a glassy lake surface, with immaculate breath control and no vibrato, whereas moments before the depth and timbre of the sound was like a deep dive into a resonant ravine of emotional storytelling. Like some Meryl Streep of music, Ms. Douglas reinvents herself and her sound to fit each story that is being told - and thanks to Ms. Simone's varied tastes in her own storytelling, the options for Douglas are like the best musical build-a-bear you ever saw. Well... heard. Note the dirge of despair that is "The House of the Rising Sun" or the cheeky call and response of "Forbidden Fruit" (how perfect is that?). The rich sound of the former is down in Douglas' throat and chest cavity, while the latter is bright and up in her soft palate and nasal cavity - these are technical aspects that the singer makes to match choices the actor is making - and make no mistake, Natalie Douglas is a terrific actor. Together, the actor and the singer live inside this one woman, running more than one gamut in numbers like "I Put a Spell On You" and "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" or "My Baby Just Cares For Me" and "Four Women"; if you don't find yourself crying, though, from the audacity of emotion in "Why" or the sheer perfection of "Work Song" ... I'm just sayin'.

And while we're just saying things: it would be a mistake of significant proportion to not suggest that your enjoyment of this record will be doubled if you allow yourself the privilege of really listening to the work of musical director/pianist Mark Hartman, saxophonist Patience Higgins, Sean McDaniel on percussion and Steve Doyle on bass - trust me on this, they create more than back up for Douglas, they are the canvas on which she paints pictures, and all the colors in the spectrum.

Now, anyone who has seen Natalie Douglas live will tell you that a one-hour disc of a Natalie Douglas show means the recording has been edited down. There is no such thing as a one-hour Natalie Douglas show; it takes half an hour for Natalie to speak the speech and share the opinions that come with the singer and the songs - it is one of the reasons people love Natalie and one of the reasons they go to her shows. It's not only about the singing and the thrill of seeing Natalie Douglas live - the extemporaneous rhetoric and spontaneous humor is a major part of the enjoyment factor. Fear not, fans, for although the major portion of the album is the Douglas voice raised in song, there are nuggets of chit-chat throughout, heading for the big payoff, which is a monologue just before the final number that will satisfy all your prosaic needs and stand-up comedy wishes. That final monologue and accompanying finale are, truly, enough to make you, Nina Simone, even Baby Jesus happy. The entire record, from start to finish, is a glowing example of quality entertainment from one of the great entertainers.Natalie Douglas To Nina... Live At Birdland is a 2005 release on the WGB Records Label and is available on all streaming platforms.


bottom of page