I Wish You Love - (Then & Now). This track begins with 36 seconds of Nat "King" Cole's original version "Then" followed by Caesar's rendition "Now."
The history that brought us the silken voice of jazz crooner Caesar begins with basement listening sessions, involves the “good fortune” of a stolen guitar, represents the preservation of a legacy, and strives to exemplify the standard for African American men in society today. That’s a lot to unpack so let’s take a closer look.
Growing up in Chicago, Caesar and his father spent hours together every Saturday in the basement listening to albums by the great baritone singers. Around ten years-old at the time, Caesar’s “education” came from those vinyl LP listening sessions, “studying” under such masters as Joe Williams, Billy Eckstine, Arthur Prysock, Brook Benton and Nat King Cole. Father and son didn’t talk much; they mostly just listened. Like these classic vocalists themselves, Caesar’s father always wore a crisp suit and carried himself with class and high esteem. Impression made.
Caesar was about the same age when he saw Wes Montgomery play guitar in his cousin’s living room at a family barbecue. He quickly fell in love with the sound of guitar, working several odd jobs over three summers to save up to purchase an electric jazz guitar. Then he joined the high school jazz band. The three-sport athlete locked up that beautiful cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitar in the band’s vault while at football practice, but someone managed to swipe it anyway. Having already committed to perform at a school talent contest, Caesar decide to sing instead. A balladeer was born, and that stolen guitar turned out to be a blessing.
Years later, Caesar would go on to tour the world accompanying GRAMMY winner Julio Iglesias, becoming the first and only male vocalist ever to sing in the global superstar. An unlikely meeting with Billboard chart-topping contemporary jazz guitarist Peter White led to collaborative performances and recording dates that continue to this day.
As soon as anyone hears Caesar’s smooth vocals and debonair delivery, listeners instantly recall Cole. CBS News Radio said, “That's Caesar whose singing brings back Nat King Cole" while the Screen Actors Guild enthused “Caesars' smooth velvet voice has often been compared to Nat King Cole's, but he has his own interpretation and style that compares to no one but is essentially and superbly...Caesar.”
Caesar sees the bigger picture of what Cole’s music stood for back then and now. “I like to put my own spin on the timeless songs that Nat made famous for today’s audience. My voice is a little deeper, but what Nat stood for, and that kind of music influence is what’s missing in popular music today. Nat’s voice is what brought Black and White audiences together long before the civil rights movement. He was the first Black artist to host his own radio and television shows on NBC and he sang in seven (7) languages, yet he couldn’t stay in the same hotels where he headlined. The Capitol Records Building is an LA landmark and called ‘The house that Nat built’ because his record sales are the reason they were able to build the building. My mission is to ensure that his legacy stays alive and expose young children to Nat’s music. He carried himself with such dignity and respect. It’s important to show people that there are still African American artists who wear suits and sing in multiple languages. We are more than just rappers," said Caesar, who incredulously was once told by a music executive, and a club owner that he should rap.
Caesar recorded selections from Cole’s songbook in Capitol Studios in Studio A, singing into the same microphone and utilizing the same Steinway piano that Cole used in the 1950s. “Jazz Standards for Today’s Audience,” Caesar’s debut album that was later retitled “Caesar Sings Nat King Cole,” was engineered by GRAMMY-winning legend Al Schmitt. It is a sublime showcase for Caesar’s suave, inviting and majestic voice.
Early next year, Caesar will return to Studio A with his all-star big band to record “Swing Caesar Swing,” reimagining standards and tunes from the Great American Songbook updating traditional arrangements by Count Basie and others. Caesar already has ideas for his third recording project, which he envisions as being an album comprised primarily of original songs.
Whether accompanied by a big band, orchestra or sparse acoustic guitar or piano instrumentation, Caesar’s vocals stand front and center, powerfully delivered with poise, elegance and grace. He sings in five languages, which he aims to do at performing arts centers around the world.
“My goal is to perform in the same theaters and jazz festivals as my peers, vocalists like Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé,” said Caesar, who has shared the stage or recorded with Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Lou Rawls, Deborah Cox, Ronnie Laws, Gerald Albright, Lalah Hathaway, Rick Braun and Ronnie Laws, just to name a few.
A charismatic presence who exudes enthusiasm, positivity and charm, Caesar has dabbled in movies, including Halle Berry’s “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and John Travolta’s “Primary Colors.” He’s entertained countless corporate crowds on behalf of major brands like United Airlines, Paramount Studios, McDonald’s, The Boys & Girls Club, Enterprise, Target, Warner Brothers Studios, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Universal Studios, Lexus, Screen Actors Guild and the House of Blues Foundation.
With inspiration from a timeless icon, Caesar endeavors to spread enduring messages of diversity and unity using traditional pop vocals, big band and swinging jazz on stage and on record.
“Diversity in music is exactly what the world needs right now.”
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