Bar hosts Nat King Cole birthday bash

Professors in WSU’s School of Music perform jazz classics, say genre is backbone of American music



Instructors perform at Rico’s Pub House on Saturday. Horace Alexander Young sings, Brad Ard plays guitar and Dave Snider plays bass.

ZACH GOFF, Evergreen reporter

On Nat King Cole’s 100th birthday, Rico’s Pub celebrated in his memory with a 1920s prohibition-style night.

Cole was born just before the beginning of prohibition and became a jazz pianist and popular vocalist in the 1950s.

On Saturday night, Pullman faculty, students and locals came to join in the celebration. The average wait time for a drink was close to an hour. But the live band playing Cole’s tunes was the focus.

“[Jazz is] the backbone of American music, not just jazz as a genre. Before it evolved into jazz it was American popular music, which a lot of people have forgotten,” said Horace Alexander Young, the lead singer and professor in the WSU School of Music.

Young grew up surrounded by jazz and began performing in 1967 at the age of 13.

On Saturday, he performed with several other WSU professors who share a love for jazz.

Elizabeth Peisner, interim assistant dean of students, also grew up surrounded by the smooth saxophone sounds.

“My father was born in the 20s so this is the music I was raised with,” Peisner said. “I just greatly appreciate jazz for its purity, and with improvisation comes the expression of the soul.”

Nat King Cole helped break racial and social barriers, opening doors for other people of color to come into the music industry, Peisner said.

“The way [Young] presents the music is great. He provides the history behind the tunes that are not so familiar to understand why Nat King Cole wrote those songs,” Peisner said.

Both Peisner and Young said that jazz is essential to today’s popular music. Young loves jazz but is determined to listen to a plethora of music to better his own music writing.

“There’s a lot of music I may not particularly like but I still listen to because it’s popular with some people, and you want to communicate with as many people as you can,” Young said. “Every musician, every songwriter creates something of value.”

Novice King Cole fans left with a bit more knowledge about the history of jazz, and veterans were able to share what they experienced and have a space to enjoy the genre.

“Jazz is to contemporary music what classical music is to all music. It is literally one of those underlying foundations,” Peisner said.

Young said the music program hopes in the future to have more events that celebrate historical figures.

Rico’s Pub is located on 200 E Main Street Pullman and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.