Those familiar with Nat King Cole’s singular croon might be hard put to imagine anyone replicating it with even a modicum of success. But 10-time Grammy-winning guitarist and vocalist George Benson is a true believer that imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery. He has long envisioned paying his respects to Cole — his favorite singer — by performing his songs the way Cole once did them. Four years ago, he began doing just that: playing Nat King Cole tribute concerts to audiences around the world who seem to know the words to every song.
Benson brings the show to the Kennedy Center Friday and Saturday, where he will be backed by the NSO Pops and conductors Randy Waldman and Steven Reineke. Part of the Kennedy Center’s “Swing, Swing, Swing” winter jazz series, the concert features original arrangements of Cole’s signature songs, such as “Nature Boy,” “Mona Lisa,” “Route 66” and “Unforgettable.” The second part of the show also features songs from Benson’s new album, “Guitar Man.”