Record Review: The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco featuring Nat Adderley

In the words of Ani Difranco: People used to make records As in a record of an event The event of people playing music in a room Now everything is cross-marketing Its about sunglasses and shoes Or guns and drugs You choose We got it rehashed We got it half-assed We're digging up all the graves And we're spitting on the past And you can choose between the colors Of the lipstick on the whores Cause we know the difference between The font of 20% more And the font of teriyaki You tell me How does it... make you feel?

Not so good. Until I dug up this essential gem!

From “In San Francisco”:1959: Riverside RLP 12-311

Players: Cannonball Adderley – Alto Sax Nat Adderley – Cornet Bobby Timmons – Piano Sam Jones – Bass Louis Hayes – Drums

Scale from 1-5. Sonics: 4 Performance: 4.4 Availability: 3.1 Recommend: 5+

It is so easy to forget the greats. It is easier to forget the not so greats, commercialized on today’s charts simply because they wear Revlon, or drive a Jaguar. This over commercialized business was all but nonexistent in the 1950s. Oh it was there, just not being screamed at you from the 80 foot LED screens at every corner. There was a “Word of mouth” thing going on in the jazz scene of the 50s. Like when we used to talk with our neighbors, and let the kids come home when the street lights came on. A time when names like Miles got you tapping your feet before even hearing the needle drop. One sax player would run into another at the barber and whisper in his ear, “Pssst, you know Timmons is gana dig with Cannonball in da ally tonight. Be there at 6:00 sharp. I’ll hode da door”… I wish I had been alive back then. I most certainly would have scraped up everything I had to make the trek to this session. There was no need for anything but a faded poster glued to the bricks out back. No LEDs, no Revlon, no BMW either. Just jazz…

When Cannonball Adderley joined the Riverside label, he was assured that his still-unformed band would be recorded promptly, whenever and wherever he felt ready. The quintet, featuring Nat Adderley and Bobby Timmons, was assembled in 1959 and the promise was kept that October at San Francisco's Jazz Workshop. The memorable result is heard here and it's one of the most exciting, influential, and successful "live" recordings in modern jazz history.

Without a doubt this is an essential jazz recording. The album was recorded live at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco and released in 1959 on Riverside Records.  Cannonball Adderley was just ending his extremely successful tenure with the Miles Davis Quintet (resulting in the classics “Round About Midnight”, “Milestones” and “Kind of Blue”) when his own group caught fire with this release.  Joined by his brother Nat on Cornet as well as Bobby Timmons, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes, the group scored a monster hit with the Timmons track “This Here”.  The rest of the album is just as solid and paved the way for a very fruitful period for Adderley and the various groups he would front over the next few years. Essentially, many said this recording was the “ONE” that made the man. I wasn’t around back then, but if I had been I would have had to agree. Having a name is one thing, but in this 50s jazz world, the proof was in the pudding.

 I would have to agree with the idea that this groundbreaking album launched "soul jazz", according to NPR, bridging "the gap between bebop and funk". Producer and jazz critic Orrin Keepnews described the album as "the birth of contemporary live recording" and in May 1960, Time noted that the album's then 50,000 copies sold was "phenomenal for a jazz record", raising the album to the bestseller charts. Music critic Scott Yanow describes the album as a "gem […] essential for all jazz collections." I couldn’t agree more. From the first few rhythms on “This Here”, I knew there was something special about to happen in my listening room. I was wrong; it hit me deeper as the tune began to grow. By six minutes into this twelve minute track, I was no longer sitting in my chair. I was standing back of it, in total bliss. I believe I picked up a set of drum sticks and just held them in front of me, eyes closed, frozen in the moment. Wow…

The album was originally released by Riverside Records; the album has been reissued on CD several times since 1991 by Riverside and OJC. Remastered versions of the album include extended cuts of several of the songs on the original, including the retitled "(A Few Words by Cannonball...And) This Here". I have the original copy in front of me. I have listened to the CD release, yet firmly believe the vinyl is a far better way to take in this stellar record.  In the late 50s and early 60s Cannonball enjoyed unparalleled popularity, marked by the commercially successful Riverside releases of first his quintet and later his sextet (Yusef Lateef was the 3rd horn). The sessions were frequently recorded live, included spoken introductions by the ebullient Cannonball, featured mostly "accessible" tunes, and showcased at least one crowd-pleaser (This Here, Sack of Woe, Jive Samba, Mercy Mercy) that was also released as a hit single.

These sessions are memorable less for the individual solos than the fire of the ensemble, anchored and propelled by perhaps the best walking bass player in the business, Sam Jones. When I listen to these recordings, I can't help but lament the absence of such ensembles on the scene today as well as be reminded of the relatively tough times Cannonball would encounter in the late 60s and early 70s, when he had trouble booking the group. How is that possible? If only those clubs knew then what we do now. There is no doubt it would be the other way around with this sudden interest in 50s jazz amongst a younger generation now. A happy thing indeed, but possibly too late. Who do we have that can stand out like the musicians on this album today? Let me know if you find some. I need more!!!

"Live in San Francisco" is an exemplary session, certainly the equal of any of the other recordings by Cannonball with his own group. If a choice is to be made, another unnamed reviewer stated, “I would personally favor the recordings with Victor Feldman on piano, rather than Joe Zawinul or Bobby Timmons, the pianist on this particular session.” I can’t say I would agree. The group is the group on those numbers. You change just one element and it becomes something entirely different. One change and this album may have never been recorded.  Regardless, with the renewed interest in "acoustic" straight-ahead jazz, any of the recordings should be required listening for the ensemble sound alone. Rarely have I heard such a synergy between members of similar groups today. It just worked…

Like I said before, the tone was set with "This Here" and rocked the house with "Spontaneous Combustion". The solos by each member of the Quintet were fantastic. It was an opportunity to see Bobby Timmons who did the arrangements for "This Here" or as Cannonball stated he "corrupted" it to be "Dis Hear." What I liked about the LP (and now the CD) is that each song was not edited, the songs were allowed to the full length as was performed live. The unity of this group absolutely did bring down the house as, now the LP is doing the same in my home. It was amazing how the group would play in three quarter time with such precision that it makes a person jump-up and dance. (Or stand there with drool on your chin and a set of sticks in your hand like me. (Dork)

 Bobby Timmons solo on "Spontaneous Combustion," had more than a bit of "church gospel and R&B" in it. Putting hands in the air and letting out the occasional “Praise the Lord” is entirely acceptable behavior for this tune. It reminds me of when I would ride my bike down to a small black church on 17th street in Galveston Texas. It had a small white picket fence where I could lean up my bike, hop over and sit under a side window unnoticed. I could sit there for hours and hours, just letting the Sunday pass with the sweetest sounds of gospel filling my ears. I miss that time dearly and this brings it all home for me.  Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and brother "Nat" Adderley complemented each other while playing together or on solo. The Quintet was welded together in all six of the selections and is great for the ears. "Cannonball" had incredibly rhythmic solos, "Nat’s" jubilant playing accented by drummer Louis Hayes and bass player Sam Jones on most of the numbers, really moved those in attendance inside and those outside of the Jazz Workshop. Now, it moves me all the way out here on the rocks of Hawaii. Modern technology “ROCKS”!!!

I know I could live with this album for a lifetime. It is truly one of those rare pieces of history that changed everything. All jazz lovers will miss "Cannonball" and his brother "Nat." In the meantime we are given these beautiful recordings of the group’s appearance in San Francisco's Jazz Workshop. This album shows why Adderley's group was a pacesetter in funky soul-jazz and proving that they could outswing most of their competition. DO NOT pass this one up while flipping through the stacks at the record shop. It is an absolute MUST for any Jazz collection. Actually, for any collection period… This gem is essential!!!!

Keep your records clean ya’ll!!!


PS. The recording itself, is stellar as well…

Associated equipment: Analog: JWM Designs LLC MAG-lv/VPI/Rega/SL-1200/Funkfirm/SME Turntable (Custom built) Shelter 201, Ortofon 2M Red and 2M Blue, Shure 97XE phono cartages Hitachi FT-2 Tuner (Custom modified JWM Designs LLC) Digital: Oppo HD 980H, HP dv7-4183cl Notebook (extensively modified JWM Designs LLC) Amplification: Musical Fidelity XA-1 (Custom modified JWM Designs LLC) McIntosh MC2105 and MC2125 amplifiers (Custom modified JWM Designs LLC) Sound Craftsman DC2215 Differential/Comparator Equalizer Speakers: Klipsch Cornwall II (Custom built)Front Klipsch Tangent T50 (Custom built) Rear JWM Designs LLC JMSW12 Servo driven subwoofers (X-2) Each with 1,340 watt custom built HYPEX digital amplifiers Cables: Audio Quest Columbia and Colorado interconnects Kimber Kable 12HT speaker cables Audio Quest NRG-4 IEC power cables Dedicated 200A power source from mains panel feeding PS Audio Power Port Classics 20A 1 bottle of Barefoot Moscato!