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Sweet soul music

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.[3] 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.

1 thought on “Sweet soul music

  1. The Adderley Brothers – saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” and trumpeter Nat – were jazz royalty who went on to play with a virtual “who’s who” of the greatest jazz talents of their era. Julian was not only one of the all-time greatest alto sax players, he was also an astute bandleader, composer, arranger, talent scout, and bon-vivant.

    Cannonball played with Miles Davis during his greatest period, featured on 1958’s “Milestones” and 1959’s “Kind of Blue.” After leaving Miles Davis, Adderley formed a highly-successful group with his brother Nat, which ultimately became the Adderley Brothers Sextet. This group attained greatness in its own right, and also served as a sort of finishing school for scores of great jazz players who cut their teeth under Cannonball’s watchful eye, including Bobby Timmons, Barry Harris, Victor Feldman, Ray Brown, Sam Jones, and many others.

    A number of Adderley’s compositions/co-compositions are now part of the jazz canon, including “This Here,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Sack O’ Woe,” and “Work Song.”He is acknowledged as one of the inventors and prime movers of the soul jazz movement, as well as the hard bop, modern jazz and electric/jazz fusion eras.

    Cannonball Adderley was also an astute judge of jazz talent, and is directly responsible for all-time great jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, getting signed to Riverside Records, thus kicking off another legendary career. Wes, one of the three Montgomery Brothers, often performed with and guested on Cannonball and Nat Adderley’s recordings over the decade 1958-1968.

    Cannonball was an original, a giant the likes of which we’ll not see again soon -if ever again.

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