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Natalie enthralls Abravanel crowd

NATALIE COLE, Abravanel Hall, Tuesday.

Natalie Cole's music has been described as a mix of "sensitivity, sass, swing and soul." Throw in a bit of scat, a touch of shimmer and a huge dose of style, and you have a pretty good description of her concert Tuesday night.

Cole, who gained both musical genes and exposure to a wide variety of musical styles and legendary performers through her father, the late, great Nat King Cole, entertained and enthralled with her own brand of music-making. She blends high energy with distinctive vocal styling that combines jazz and blues and pop.

Whether Cole was evoking a mellow mood "under a midnight sun" or splashing about on a cool, tropical island or succumbing to the "flash, bam, alakazam" of love out of "an orange-colored sky," Cole demonstrated both a mastery of various genres and an ability to transport listeners on a wild musical ride. "I'm going to mess with you a bit," she told the audience, "take you on a musical journey that's sometimes slow, sometimes fast. So hang on."

She crooned tender love songs, such as "The Very Thought of You" and "An Everlasting Love." She set feet tapping and the temperature rising with sultry siren songs, such as "Fever" and "It's Sandman." She paid tribute to both male ("Mister Melody") and female ("I Am a Woman") members of the audience. She captured the poignancy of "Smile," a song she learned from her father.

And yes, she even sang her "Unforgettable" duet with video of her father and the family to bring it together in a crowd-pleasing way. (You forget how young and handsome Nat King Cole was when he first released that song until you see him singing it again.)

Cole's onstage band and back-up singers added to the evening, as did the interesting use of light and patterns that formed a backdrop for her songs.

Cole talked about the last time she appeared in Utah — a Fourth of July concert in Provo after she had just broken some ribs. So, she said, she was happy to be back at full-strength. And the crowd was equally happy to have her here, as they enjoyed both the power and richness of her voice.

The concert was a benefit for the Caring Foundation for Children, a charitable organization under the auspices of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah that provides free dental benefits to uninsured children throughout the state. Proceeds, the audience was told, would provide dental care for 300 low-income children. A dinner and auction prior to the concert raised an additional $50,000 for the cause, making the evening an unforgettable one, indeed.