This one’s for our pal Aesop, who kindly regaled us with a slice of solid-gold soul from the great Hugh Masekela yesterday. One good turn deserves another, I always say. So dig this if you will, brothers and sisters.
Important kinda-sorta caveat: you MUST listen to this one twice (at least) to get just how hard this piece really swings. First time around, just let the sound take you away. The Adderley Quintet works that almighty groove to damned near exhaustion; they play so far behind the beat they almost drop one entirely every other bar. The dynamics are pure perfection, crescendoing from soft and sweet to a thunderous climax again and again. There might possibly some way to improve on the arrangement, maybe, but as a songwriter of some minor repute myself I surely can’t see how you’d do it.
Second listen is for paying close attention to the audience. The above recording is from the halcyon soul days of 1966. I don’t know where it was done, but I always envisioned one of those small jazz joints that flourished in lower Manhattan in those days, a smokey room packed with finger-snapping beatnik hipster originals who were neither shy nor quiet about expressing their appreciation for a performance as nonpareil as this one. Listen especially for the dude who keeps yelling “Work out! Work out!” during the
Fender Rhodes Wurlitzer (see below) solo in the middle, and the nice round of applause keyboard whiz Joe Zawinul receives for his stellar work.
When the audience erupts into raucous, sustained applause at the end, there’s no doubt that these folks were keenly aware that they’d just witnessed something truly special. And they had. Nat’s spoken intro is great, even.
Alas, those days are but a memory now, as are almost all of the musicians, bless them. Nowadays, the only correct and proper way to enjoy this one is with a tumbler of fine whiskey at your elbow and a cigarette in your hand, as God His Own Self intended. Anything less can only come up short. Not that I’m trying to incite delinquency on anybody’s part here, mind.
Both the Masekela classic and Cannoball’s slow-burn scorcher, among loads of other soul satisfiers, are still available on this excellent Rhino compilation from years back, along with another old favorite of mine which I’ll graciously toss your way as a bonus track. No need to thank me, y’all.
Oh, and my wistful idea about the Adderley Quintet playing in some lower-Manhattan jazz dive for this recording? Ummm, think again.
Though the original liner notes state that it was recorded at the Club DeLisa in Chicago, it was actually recorded at Capitol’s Hollywood studio with an invited audience and an open bar. The reason for this discrepancy, according to the liner notes in the CD reissue, is that Adderley and the new manager of Club DeLisa (which had been renamed “The Club”, after operating for years in Chicago under its old name) were friends, and Adderley offered to give the club a bit of free publicity.
The title track became a surprise hit, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. On this album, Joe Zawinul played a Wurlitzer electric piano; however, subsequent live performances saw him taking up the new and mellower-sounding Fender Rhodes instrument.
Ah well, my being wrong about a couple-three details diminishes the music itself not a whit. Enjoy, folks.