ZAWINUL: Rumpelstiltskin. The Painted Desert. Walk Tall. N. ADDERLEY: Sweet Emma. Oh Babe.* Work Song. BERNSTEIN: Somewhere. STAPLES: Why Am I Treated so Bad? GILLESPIE: Blue ‘n’ Boogie / Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, a-sax; Nat Adderley, tpt/*voc; Joe Zawinul, pno/kbds; Victor Gaskin, bs; Roy McCurdy, dm / SWR Jazzhaus JAH-402 (live: Stuttgart, March 20, 1969)
Famed “soul” saxist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, who tragically died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 46, was certainly one of jazz’s most vital, if not one of its most original, creators during the 1950s and ‘60s. This live set from Stuttgart in 1969 features his working band of the time which, in addition to his brother Nat on trumpet (who I always liked, by the way, at times even more than Cannonball) also included Austrian pianist-composer Joe Zawinul.
The band establishes a fine groove in the opener, Zawinul’s Rumpelstiltskin, and from the solos therein you can tell that everyone is in fine form, but particularly (as I noted above) Nat on trumpet. Nat Adderley’s style lay somewhere between Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown, being soulful but also imaginative and inventive, with well-formed yet surprising choruses. As for Zawinul, he swings but, as usual, plays somewhat predictable solos, which h breaks up with incoherent fly-all-over-the-keyboard interludes. The very solid rhythm section of bassist Victor Gaskin and drummer Roy McCurdy back them up beautifully without being ostentatious.
The second number up is Nat Adderley’s Sweet Emma, a quintessential soul-jazz number with almost a Gospel feel to its simple but catchy melody. Here, within the rhythm section, Zawinul’s playing is quite good, and Nat’s opening solo, simple yet effective, sets the tone for the entire performance. Given a relaxed tempo and able to use “space” in his solo, Zawinul also plays effectively.
Yet one of the most interesting and surprising performances here is the group’s ballad treatment of Leonard Bernstein’s Somewhere from West Side Story—not because it is a ballad performance, which was fairly rare for Cannonball as a rule, but because of how richly and fully he plays it. Indeed, his alto tone is so warm that he almost sounds like a tenor saxist (I thought immediately of Illinois Jacquet), and in the third chorus he begins a cappella, joined for several bars only by Gaskin’s bowed bass. This is almost a sui generis performance for him, one of those moments when you suddenly realize how great a command this man had of his instrument.
Why Am I Treated So Bad? was composed by Roebuck Staples, who formed the family-based Staples Singers. It’s another slow soul number, the opening theme played to perfection by Julian and Nat in thirds and in unison. Zawinul’s solo is minimal but effective. Zawinul’s The Painted Desert is another slow piece, but with more of a jazz kick to it and some excellent choruses, particularly by Cannonball with the composer playing some very interesting chords beneath him and developing the music in an interesting way. At around the two-minute mark Adderley suddenly doubles the tempo and plays a few wild figures, then relaxes it again and continues improvising on the original melody. Then it’s Nat’s turn, playing a fugitive, almost Miles Davis-like solo on trumpet, followed by Zawinul in his ruminative style.
We return to a soul groove with another Nat Adderley piece, Oh Babe, and of course in a piece like this Cannonball was in his element and brother Nat doing the great blues vocal, but for me Dizzy Gillespie’s Blues ‘n’ Boogie was a real surprise, Cannonball and the band playing a bop number and really tearing up the place, too. The chorus in which Julian and Nat play rapid figures together, with drummer McCurdy exploding in the breaks before embarking on a great extended solo, is a real gem.
The soul feel returns for the last two numbers, Zawinul’s Walk Tall and, of course, Nat Adderley’s classic Work Song, which was almost a theme song for Cannonball and his bands. The latter opens with an a cappella duet by Julian and Nat, and when the famous theme comes in it’s at a quicker tempo than the original record, with McCurdy really kicking things up on the drums. Cannonball’s solo is simply wonderful in its own way but, as was often the case, Nat’s solo says even more in a shorter span of time. Zawinul is OK, and the whole performance rides the band out on a bang.
Overall, then, a fine set by the Adderley brothers with a few really fine surprises!
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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