It's not every day that a singer performing "Send In the Clowns" inspires fans to shout, "You go, girl!" Then again, it's not every day that Natalie Cole comes to town.
The singer's concert at Wolf Trap on Monday night was almost exclusively devoted to vintage pop and jazz songs. Most of them were tastefully arranged for rhythm and horn sections, and all of them had at least one thing going for them: Cole's unmistakably supple and soulful voice.
Since releasing "Unforgettable, With Love," her blockbuster pop album, Cole has seen her career enter a time warp that has rendered her one of most successful interpreters of songs that predate or parallel the rock era. Even now, with a new album that has a more contemporary focus, Cole is mindful that audiences that fill large summer venues are still expecting her to pay homage to her father, Nat King Cole, and his peers. So she tailors her concerts accordingly, faithfully reprising "Unforgettable" (with, of course, the help of her father's recorded version), and crafting sometimes clever and sometimes moving tributes to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.
Although the range of material quickly proved demanding, with the singer often moving back and forth between dreamy pop ballads and spirited scat recitals, Cole made it all seem rather effortless, a family trait to be sure.