Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Cannonball Adderely Sextet in New York

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

I suppose that old adages are old adages because the ring of truth in them defies time and prevails to some degree in any generation.

One such adage that came to mind recently is how do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been?

The inference of the importance of a point-of-departure in this adage is particularly relevant as it relates to the Jazz tradition.

In this regard, I always find it fun to revisit favorite recordings and gain a perspective on where the Jazz tradition was “then” in order to better understand where the music is “now.”

One of the most celebrated working relationships in recorded Jazz history was formed by alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley and Orrin Keepnews of Riverside Records.

Not only did Cannonball’s groups record for Riverside, but Cannonball also served as a musical advisor/director for Orrin’s label before Riverside’s demise in 1964 due largely to the bad business practices of Keepnews’ partner, Bill Grauer. But it was a great ten years while it lasted [Riverside issued it first LPs in 1953].

The Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York [Riverside RLP 404; OCCD 142] was part of the short-lived [due to cost factors] “Great Age of the Jazz Sextet” when the more traditional, two instrument modern Jazz combo began to add another “voice” to the front line.

Prime examples of this trend were Art Farmer, Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller of the Jazztet and Art Blakey’s Messengers with Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and Curtis who was later replaced by Julian Priester.

Cannonball and his brother Nat took the plunge by adding Yusef Lateef on tenor sax and along with his big, bluesy tenor sax sound, Yusef brought along his flute and oboe to add lots of extra dimension to the sonority of the sextet.

As the following will exemplify, not only did Orrin produce first rate Jazz recordings but he also had the uncanny ability to write informative and detailed liner notes about them.

If you want to know where Jazz “was” a half century ago, The Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York would make a good starting point.

And a good point in comparison to where the Jazz sextet in on today’s Jazz scene can be had by listening to any of the recordings by One for All which features a front line of Jim Rotondi, trumpet, Steve Davis, trombone and Eric Alexander on tenor sax backed by a rhythm section usually made up of David Hazeltine, piano, John Webber, bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. One for All has recordings out on both Criss Cross and the Sharp Nine labels. Trombonist Steve Davis and pianist/organist Mike LeDonne have also recorded extensively in sextet formats. You can find more information about my previous postings on One for All and about Steve Davis by using the blog’s“Search” feature.

“The saga of Cannonball Adderley's band, which has unquestionably been one of the most dazzling success stories in modern jazz history, has been highlighted by in-the-club albums that have only become possible because of the improved tape-recording and microphone techniques and equipment of recent years.

When a jazz group is the sort that responds vividly to audience reaction, and when it also provokes great excitement and enthusiasm among the customers, an in-person recording can be an emotional and musical experience of awesome proportions. And I can think of no combination of jazz musicians who surpass Cannonball's crew in this dual ability to stimulate and be stimulated by a club full of avid listeners. This was overwhelmingly demonstrated very early in the band's existence, when they were recorded on the job at the Jazz Workshop in the Fall of 1959.

That was actually a rather accidental happening — we were anxious to bring out an album by this newly formed quintet as swiftly as possible, San Francisco was the scene of their first extensive engagement, and that otherwise wonderful city doesn't particularly have recording studio facilities. So we brought our equipment into the club, and the result was "The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco"—a. most gratifyingly best-selling phenomenon whose virtues included a remarkable atmosphere of audience participation.

The present album can be considered something of a companion piece to that first LP, created just over two years after it and at the other end of the continent. It presents a group that is rather more mature in terms of self-assurance and experience in working together, but every bit as electric and spirited as it was then.

Four members of the unit have been on hand since the start: Cannonball, the country's top-ranked altoist; his brother, the brilliant cornetist Nat Adderley; and the incomparable rhythm team of bassist Sam Jones (who, like the Adderleys, could attribute much of his down-home jazz feeling to having- been born down in Florida) and Detroiter Lou Hayes on drums.

Their pianist, who joined the band in the Summer of '61 but is recording with them for the first time here, is Joe Zawinul, born and raised in Austria, whose playing manages to disprove a great many geographical and racial cliches about jazz.

Yusef Lateef, a second emigrant from Detroit and a big-toned tower of strength on tenor sax (and flute and oboe), was added to the group only three weeks before this recording was made, thus turning it into a sextet. There seems no need to comment on the fact that Yusef was instantly assimilated into the group, or on the equally important facts that he has never sounded better than in this context and that his presence appears to have really fired up all concerned. All this is thoroughly evident on the LP, with the seemingly impossible result that the most fiery and soulful of jazz bands now sounds

As befits a 'live' date, the album has been put together much in the pattern of an actual performance. It opens with a few trenchant observations by Cannonball, who has long established himself as a rarity among bandleaders by invariably seeking to warm and welcome his audiences and to tell them what's going on. Then the sextet launches into the strong and compelling jazz waltz, Gemini, named for the zodiac sign of the Twins and written by  tenor sax man Jimmy Heath a close friend of the Adderleys and himself a Riverside artist. Lateef states the theme on flute, and later follows solos by Julian and Nat with some soaring tenor comments. Then there's an ensemble interlude well worth special mention — not only on this album, but just about every time the band has played this tune, it draws applause, possibly the only time a mid-way ensemble chorus has consistently grabbed audience approval in this way.

Lateef's Planet Earth (Cannonball is apt to describe its title as "insurance—it's how to make sure where we're at") is a lusty number that displays how well the band now uses its three-horn status to construct effective backgrounds for the soloists.

The second side is a good example of a the variety and pacing of a typical club set. Dizzy's Business is a swift-moving "opener." (It was originally written, by Ernie Wilkins, for Dizzy Gillespie's big band and, as Cannon sometimes puts it: "Dizzy's business and our business are pretty much the same thing — to swing.").  Lateef's Syn-anthesia, which utilizes his command of the oboe, is a strange and delicate piece; Yusef explains its title as referring to "a mixture of the senses." Zawinul's Scotch and Water is a rocking blues that features solos by the leader and the composer. Lastly there is a closing theme, written by Sam Jones, that is more than just a curtain-call device: after Cannon introduces the cast, they proceed to blow up a final storm that leaves the crowd clapping, beating time, and obviously reluctant to have things end — which is not at all an unusual way for an Adderley set (or record) to come to a close.”

JULIAN "CANNONBALL" ADDERLEY, alto sax; NAT ADDERLEY, cornet; YUSEF LATEEF, tenor sax, flute, oboe; JOE ZAWINUL, piano; SAM JONES, bass; LOUIS HAYES, drums. New York; January 12 and 14, 1962.
1.  Introduction- - by Cannonball   (1:56)
2.  Gemini (11:36)                                        (Jimmy Heath)
3.   Planet Earth   (7:54)                               (Yusef Lateef)
1.   Dizzy's Business  (6:59)                         (Ernie Wilkins)
2.  Syn-anthesia (7:00)                                 (Yusef Lateef)
3.  Scotch and Water (5:52)                         (Joe Zawinul)
4.  Cannon's Theme  (3:15) '                        (Sam Jones)

The following video features the sextet working out on Dizzy’s Business.

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