Napa Valley College will present crooner Roberto-Juan González and The Keith Saunders Jazz Trio performing “Love Letters from Nat King Cole” in concert celebrating the 75th anniversary of the college, founded in 1942.
The 7:30 p.m. performance on Sunday, Sept. 17, in the Main Theater of the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center, will include Cole’s hits from the American Songbook, such as “Unforgettable,” “There Will Never Be Another You,” and “Mona Lisa.” The show will feature pianist Keith Saunders, bassist Adam Gay and drummer Smith Dobson, Jr.
From the 1940s to the ‘60s, Cole recorded more than 600 love songs and swing tunes, charming his way into the hearts of America and the world, to become one of its most successful singers.
“We respectfully dedicate this concert to our friend, the late L. Pierce Carson, longtime writer and music, arts, food, and wine reviewer for the Napa Valley Register,” said Dr. González.
Along with great song and music, González will offer historic insight through entertaining comments about life of Nat King Cole.
Dr. González came to Napa Valley College as orchestra conductor in 1988, but began singing when he was 6. Raised a church musician, he owes a great measure of his musical career to the musical environment at the Union Church of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was first made a professional conductor at the age of 15, having been nurtured as a pianist and vocalist in the comprehensive music ministry. While doing his undergraduate degree at InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico, San Germán, he was asked to sit in as pianist with a Latino dance band, where he then became the crooner of slow ballads at dance jobs on weekends.
On arriving at Ball State University in Indiana for graduate studies in orchestra conducting, where he finished his doctorate in 1983, González was trained as an operatic lyric tenor, but never really wanted the commitment that an operatic career required. He did maintain a career as church musician, which provided an outlet for his singing.
His real interest was in the American Songbook, but no suitable opportunities presented themselves for exploration at that time.
In 2006, he met Richard Nichol, director and vocal coach of the San Francisco Academy for Performing Arts, and began singing again. It was during one of the Academy’s evenings, at the now-defunct Octavia Lounge on Market Street, that he met Michael Parsons, a brilliant stride pianist and composer in the tradition of Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. Invited to participate in a be-bop party presented by Parsons and his trio at Octavia, González started exploring and crooning classics from the American Songbook in the company of Parsons.
The combination was so stimulating and so much fun for the pianist and singer that they began talking about doing concerts to present their work together. Their first concert in a few years ago at Napa Valley College was a sold-out success and hailed by Carson in his Napa Valley Register review.
González has continued his singing with phenomenal jazz pianist and composer Keith Saunders, often heard around the Bay Area and at the Club Deluxe in the Haight District, with the Smith Dobson Jazz Quartet.
Admission to the Sept. 17 concert is $25 for adults; $20 for seniors, students and military; and $10 for NVC students. Advance tickets are on sale at the College Box Office (707) 256-7500 and will be available at the box office of the Napa Valley College Theater the night of the concert. Plenty of free parking. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. Advance tickets are available at www.musicnapavalley.org.