Birchmere hosts Natalie Cole tribute by lifelong fan from Landover

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Tygressa's tribute to Natalie Cole (Part 1)

In 2015, the world of music lost the voice of nine-time Grammy winner Natalie Cole.

This Friday, local artist Tygressa performs a tribute at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.

“We are excited to actually be able to perform there this Friday during this pandemic,” Tygressa Jones told WTOP. “We are going to be socially distanced and it’s going to be a great night. … Me and my musicians are just very happy to be back on the stage.”

Growing up in Landover, Maryland, Jones sang with future superstar Martin Lawrence.

“My neighborhood boyfriend at the time was Martin Lawrence, the comedian,” Jones said. “He and I would sing duets like ‘Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.’ … Martin can sing! I’d like to say he was singing before he was doing comedy, but he was also very funny at a very young age. He kept us neighborhood kids in laughter all the time.”

She’ll never forget hearing Natalie Cole’s music for the first time at age 11.

“I can recall running home from school every afternoon because my mom was a member of a Record of the Month club,” Jones said. “I was drawn to Natalie Cole’s album covers. … I’d walk around the house with a brush in hand mimicking her songs.”

Fittingly, Cole also began singing at age 11 as the daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole. In 1976, she won the Grammy for Best New Artist with R&B hits: “This Will Be” (1975), “Inseparable” (1975), “Sophisticated Lady” (1976) and “Our Love” (1977).

“She got it honest, she had the talent, she had the vocals,” Jones said. “She didn’t want to be labeled as Nat King Cole’s daughter, she wanted to be Natalie Cole herself — and she did just that. She made her mark with her talent and her music.”

Ironically, her biggest success came decades later when she saluted her father on the tribute album “Unforgettable … with Love” (1991), which won Album of the Year and Record of the Year for their touching posthumous duet “Unforgettable.”

“That was very huge and it really put her back on top of the charts,” Jones said. “Her mom was very reluctant early on about her choosing this to be her business, but her mom definitely supported her in doing this album to Nat, her dad, paying tribute to him and his music. … We pay tribute as well when we perform ‘Unforgettable.'”

Tickets are $29.50. Masks are required at The Birchmere’s socially distanced tables.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Tygressa's tribute to Natalie Cole (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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