Singers Celebrate Nat King Cole at the Kerr

When Nathaniel Adams Coles was a young teen, he would sneak out of the Chicago house where he lived so he could sit outside of music clubs to hear the music of Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines.


On Wednesday, Feb. 6, the teenager who would later become Nat King Cole would have been proud to hear the sounds emanating from the Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale. Local vocalists and recording artists Joe Bourne and Dennis Rowland celebrated what would have been Nat’s 100th birthday with a song list that recounted Cole’s greatest musical moments.


Nat King Cole died in 1965 at age 45, but his musical greatness was destined to live on, and with loving tributes like this one, it’s easy to see why. Bourne and Rowland took turns commanding the stage with Joe’s crackerjack trio supporting them--Matt Mitchell on guitar, Sly Slipetsky on piano and Scott Black on bass--as they regaled the crowd with versions of When I Fall in Love Again and Frim Fram Sauce (Joe), and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and For All We Know (Dennis), among many others.


Joe Bourne is a Tucson based singer with a voice similar to Cole’s; he’s even recorded a CD of Nat’s music. Dennis Rowland is a beloved valley icon who sang with the Count Basie Orchestra. The Kerr Cultural Center was the perfect venue for their birthday celebration, since it was named after Louise Lincoln Kerr, a composer, violist and patron of the arts. The horseshoe shaped performance hall was built in 1959 next to Kerr’s home, and it still exudes a warm, old world charm, with pristine acoustics.


The ASU Kerr Cultural Center is located just west of Scottsdale Road off Rose Lane, and hosts many music events.  For jazz event details at the Kerr, go to:

Photos and Text by Chazz Rayburn