Ol' King ColeOl’ King Cole brings you the hits of the great Nat ‘King’ Cole & performs the sounds of many other great tunes & artists of his era & more along the way. The trio was born from the inspiration of Nat King Cole’s early drumless trio which ran from 1943 – 1950. A great and lively performance is always a guarantee with the spirit of the old house band alive, before TVs in bars and when people would dance the night away!
Based in New Zealand’s cultural capital city Wellington for over 15 years, Louis Thompson-Munn (piano/vocals) is a piano, keyboard player & vocalist & is a graduate of the NZ School of Music’s jazz program. Louis regularly performs in a variety of styles & ensembles with many thriving Wellington & New Zealand musicians all over the country. The past few years has seen Louis involved with a number of artists, bands & has performed & worked with many of the country’s top musicians. From performing with powerhouse covers band Superbad Soul Section to a 35,000 strong crowd, jamming with The California Honeydrops at Wellington’s Rogue & Vagabond, or performing with the elite of New Zealand’s music scene, there’s no setting too big or small.
Louis has performed at Wellington’s CUBA DUPA, Wellington Jazz Festival, opened the 2015 Jazz in Martinborough festival, Waiheke Jazz, Art & Music Festival, Toast Martinborough, many regional jazz clubs all around NZ. He has also performed with NZ Jazz legend Rodger Fox, Ria Hall, Laughton Kora, Lisa Tomlins (L.A.B./Fly My Pretties), Darren Mathiassen (Shapeshifter/Hollie Smith), and the Royal NZ Air Force Band to name a few. Louis also performed with The Victory Dolls at the 70th anniversary of Blue Smoke Records performing the Pixie Williams & Ruru Karaitiana song Saddle Hill and had involvement in the 2020 documentary ‘Pixie’. Most recently performing a summer run of shows with Ria Hall’s band opening for L.A.B at Mt. Smart Stadium to a sell out crowd.
Phoebe Johnson (double bass) has quickly become a regularly called up on electric and upright bass player since graduating Te Whanganui-a-Tara jazz school with honours in 2019. Playing with such groups as Violet Hirst & the Kind Hearted, Ol’ King Cole, The Wellington Shake-em-on-Downers, the Royal New Zealand Air Force band, and her own project Revulva, Phoebe has begun her career as a musician with fingers in several pies.
Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa (drums) has a playing history that encompasses a range of styles and genres. From diverse acts from the indie world of French For Rabbits & Glass Vaults to jazz acts such as The Wellington City Shake-Em-On-Downers or his own bandleading, Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa has in recent years been establishing himself as one of the capital’s go-to drummers.
Ol' King Cole Concert Review
Review of Ol' King Cole:
Tauranga Musica Concert Review
Ol' King Cole Trio
Sunday 26th June, Baycourt Exhibition Space
How serendipitous that the stars should align on Matariki weekend for both the Tauranga Jazz Festival and Tauranga Musica's Ol' King Cole piano trio to coincide. For those whose appetite wasn't quite satiated by the week's Jazz Festival events, concert goers were treated to a musical feast in the Baycourt Exhibition Space on Sunday afternoon by the remarkable Wellington-based Ol' King Cole trio.
Comprised of piano/vocalist Louis Thompson-Munn, double-bassist Phoebe Johnson, and drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa, the trio presented a programme of the very best of Nat 'King' Cole's early trio-based hits (as opposed to the later lusciously-orchestrated hits such as "Unforgettable"). To say the Ol' King Cole trio is simply a cover band would be to seriously underestimate and dismiss the outstanding talents and skills brimming from this ensemble. This is a trio of performers boasts a veritable embarrassment of creative and virtuosic talent. Their combined improvisational abilities alone set these musicians in the same starry heights as Diana Krall and the Harry Connick Jr. Trio.
The trio opened with an instrumental Cole Porter standard that introduced each member of the trio one at a time, beginning with a whimsical riff by Thompson-Munn on the piano. What was immediately obvious was the incredibly special sense of ensembleness that exists for these players. So transportive is the power of their sound, we listeners were instantly taken to another time and place.
The concert's first half included classic standards such as Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You (begun almost as a ballad before taking off into a swing), Sweet Lorraine and a rather clever arrangement of Nature Boy which made the inspired move to a light Latin beat during the solo sections before returning to the swing beat with which it began.
Of particular note were the inclusion of the lesser-known numbers Best Man and Meet Me at No Place Special in the first half set. While the trio continued to impress with seemingly-endless volumes of creativity throughout their improvised solos, the musicianship took a momentary backseat in both these numbers to Cole's almost-Wildean lyrics which are both witty and cheeky.
To begin the second set of the afternoon, the trio opened with an instrumental arrangement of the standard made famous by Fats Waller, Lulu's Back in Town. What began as almost a slow ballad featuring the sensitive improvisations of Thompson-Munn on the piano, moved into a fast swing which showcased the singularly creative and improvisatory talents of Schaverien-Kaa on the drums.
Also featured in the second half set were the ballads What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry which contained some rather soft and tender singing from Thompson-Munn and Don't Let Your Eyes Go Shopping for Your Heart, the preachy lyrics to which have not lost their relevance over the years.
The highlight of Honeysuckle Rose, it could be said, was not so much the music itself as the sheer enjoyment and playful chemistry radiating from the trio on stage throughout. Appropriately, the concert ended with Cole's robust Route 66 in which the improvisational talents of Thompson-Munn were on full display for an extremely appreciative audience. The trio certainly saved their best energies for this final number to which this reviewer must defer to Nat Cole himself for the final word - unforgettable!
While an early music specialist might seem to stick out at a jazz concert like a giraffe wearing dark sunglasses trying to get into a polar bears only golf club, there is a powerful (and oft-forgotten) musical thread which forever links Handel to the world of jazz – the unmistakable creativity and skill required to improvise. Although different musical languages and centuries apart, the skill set hasn't much changed and as such, one is in awe and utter appreciation for this unique and imaginative skill abounding in these three musicians.
The Ol' King Cole Trio is certainly chamber music with a difference. Thank you Tauranga Musica for capping off this Matariki weekend with such style. We look forward to returning once again to the Baycourt Exhibition Space for the upcoming Hammers and Horsehair concert on Sunday, August 28th.