Sunday, January 18, 2015

Julian "Cannonball" Adderley - Jump for Joy [From The Archives]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Long a critically undervalued figure, Cannonball Adderley's status as a master communicator in jazz has increased since his sadly early death. The blues-soaked tone and hard, swinging delivery of his alto lines are as recognizable a sound as anything in the aftermath of bebop and, while many have been quick to criticize his essentially derivative manner - Cannonball frequently fell back on cliches, because he just liked the sound of them - there's a lean, hard-won quality about his best playing that says a lot about one man's dedication to his craft.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

Our late, friend, Jack Tracy produced some terrific recordings during his tenure with Emarcy and Mercury Records.

One of my all-time favorites is alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s Plays The Score from Duke Ellington’s Jump for Joy [Emarcy Hi-Fi, Mercury MG 31146].

The music from this LP was combined with Bob Shad’s production of Julian Cannonball Adderley with Strings [Emarcy Hi-Fi, Mercury MG-36003] when it was released on CD by Verve in 1995 [[314 528 699-2].

The Jump for Joy session that Jack supervised was issued in 1958 a year during which Cannonball began to work with trumpeter Miles Davis in a sextet that also featured tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. What a front line!

Jack was based in Chicago at the time of this recording as was trombonist, composer, and arranger Bill Russo who had relocated to his home town after spending four years with Stan Kenton’s Orchestra.

As Michael Ullman states in his insert notes to the CD version of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley Plays The Score from Duke Ellington’s Jump for Joy:
“Russo was chosen as the arranger for the record, and he found himself writing for a topnotch Jazz band that included, besides a string quartet, the veteran trumpeter Emmett Berry and a rhythm section of pianist Bill Evans, guitarist Barry Galbraith, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Jimmy Cobb.” Russo knew just what to do with the musicians by making the string quartet part of the band and thereby avoiding many of the cliches of pop arranging ….”

I couldn’t agree more with Michael's assessment.

Here are the imminent Jazz critic Leonard Feather’s liner notes to the original LP which also underscore many of the recording’s highlights and include an excellent overview of Jump for Joy, one of Duke Ellington’s earliest, extended compositions.

© -Leonard Feather, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“In an environment that now produces as many new jazz albums a month as appeared, not so long age, in a year, the search for originality both in material and content becomes a matter of increasing urgency for artist and employer alike. The present album is one of those rare, exceptional cases in which both the idea and its execution are conspicuously and valuably original.

Some months ago Mercury's Jack Tracy was discussing with Julian (Cannonball) Adderley his desire to do something with the alto soloist that would involve an original instrumentation and a writer who could provide some challenging material. The idea evolved of using a string quartet as a chief component of Cannonball's setting.

When the selection of tunes for this unusual combination was discussed, Tracy said: "Instead of just a lot of originals or unrelated standards, let's try to get some relative factor, something that will tie all the tunes together." Both he and Cannonball agreed that it would be better to avoid any of the more obvious solutions, such as a hackneyed current Broadway show, or even Cannonball Plays Cole Porter. It was then that Julian came up with the idea. "Let's do the tunes from Jump For Joy," he said.

All this happened in the summer of 1958. It was by sheer coincidence that early in 1958 Jump For Joy was disinterred and, in a modernized format, came to life as the Ellington band took part in its production at Copa City in Miami, Florida.

This was the first anyone had heard of Jump For Joy in almost two decades. To get a full perspective it is necessary to flash back to 1941. Duke Ellington, who understandably felt that Porgy And Bess was "not the music of Catfish Row or any other kind of Negroes," wanted to produce an honest Negro musical that would eliminate the old stereotypes and caricatures. It was to be a hip show, a show in which the language and the costumes, the singing and the dancing, would be authentic.

Jump For Joy made its bow soon after, at the Mayan theater in Los Angeles. In the cast were Dorothy Dandridge, a teenager only recently out of the Dandridge Sisters trio act; Marie Bryant, a subtle dancer and comedienne; Joe Turner, the veteran blues singer, uniformed as a policeman for a sketch called Ssh! He's On The Beat!; Herb Jeffries and the late Ivie Anderson, Duke's vocalists; and many more. With Duke's band playing the score, it was an intelligent, sophisticated show. Lyrics and sketches contributed by such writers as Paul Francis Webster and Sid Kuller insured a consistently high level of taste and wit.

The keynote for the whole production was struck with the title song, which many of us have heard Ray Nance sing in the years between: ‘Fare thee well, land of cotton/cotton lisle is out of style, honey chile,/Jump for joy!/ Don't you grieve, little Eve/All the hounds, I do believe/ have been killed, ain't you thrilled?/Jump for joy!’ And the lyrics went on to point out that Green Pastures was just a technicolor movie, and that new groovy pastures were now on the scene.

It has been said, many times, that Jump For Joy when it first reached the public was far above the heads of much of its audience, despite the profusion of warmth and wit, of lyrical humor and musical pleasure. The Los Angeles Tribune described it as new and exciting, yet "gawky and unaware of its real charm as an adolescent. It's a new mood in the theater, reflecting truly the happy satire of colored life. In Jump For Joy Uncle Tom is dead. God rest his bones."

Yet Jump For Joy had a run of less than three months and never got to Broadway. Barry Ulanov, in his book Duke Ellington, recalls that it "left enough of an impression so that most of those who saw it and are concerned with a vigorous and honest Negro theater continually refer to it as the Negro musical. It was probably the only employment of colored singers and dancers and comedians which really didn't lapse into crude caricature of the Negro at some point, which didn't pander to the white man's distorted idea ... it was ahead of its time and presented on the wrong coast of America for theatrical success, but it made its valorous point."

Though there was no storyline to the show, it was true to the life of the people it depicted. As Ulanov wrote, "Here was a happy show which still had dignity. Duke had done what he'd always wanted to do."

Luckily the legacy of Jump For Joy included a number of songs that have become jazz standards. The familiar melodies are included in this set, along with several that were engulfed in obscurity right after the show's demise.

Bill Russo's writing having decorated the music stands of every group from the Stan Kenton orchestra to the New York Philharmonic (for which he was commissioned by Leonard Bernstein to write a special work), it comes as no surprise that the challenge of this session was boldly and successfully met. The string quartet at times gains an extra voice through the use of the bass as a fifth part. The muted horn of Emmett Berry, jazz veteran of the old Fletcher Henderson, John Kirby, and Count Basic orchestras, is heard as a leading voice over the strings at several points. Another attractive tonal combination is the use of alto saxophone over pizzicato viola, cello, and bass, employed on Nothin’ and Brownskin Gal. The strings at times are used percussively; in Bli-Blip their finger tremolos have an impact comparable with that of the "shakes" of a brass section.

Of the three tunes that will be unfamiliar to most listeners, Two Left Feet contains perhaps the most graceful and fluent Adderley ad libbing of the entire album; If Life Were All Peaches and Cream is noteworthy, among other factors, for the use of harmonics toward the end; Hickory Stick makes effective continuity out of both verse and chorus.

But to go into further technicalities would serve merely to delay what the radio announcers used to call "your listening pleasure"; it would also distract your attention from the main point, which is that the overall sound of these sides is unlike anything either Adderley or Russo has ever done before.

The blending of the personalities of these two, with a too-often-neglected Ellington score as their point of contact, has produced a set of performances that gains in interest with every hearing, and it is to their many ingenious and subtle nuances, rather than to any analysis that we may make of them, that your attention is recommended.

Leonard Feather -(Author of The Book Of Jazz: Horizon)

I have selected The Tune of the Hickory Stick from Jump for Joy as the soundtrack on the following video simply because Cannonball swings his backside off on it.  

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