Periodically, I’m really into a particular artist and their music. A few months ago it was Shirley Scott (actually, it’s still Shirley Scott). Before that, it was Cannonball Adderley. Now? Back to Cannonball. I don’t have many of his albums, but the few that I do have are spending much of their time these days on the turntable. One Cannonball album that I keep returning to is this one, mostly because it includes the hippest jazz tune ever written in the history of hip jazz tunes. This is also the first Riverside album that I’ve written about on my blog, which is surprising to me. What a build-up. To the music!
The Tune: “Jeannine”
Recorded: 29 March, 1960 in Chicago, IL
- Cannonball Adderley – Alto Sax
- Nat Adderley – Cornet
- Barry Harris – Piano
- Sam Jones – Bass
- Louis Hayes – Drums
There is no debate- “Jeannine” is the smoothest jazz tune ever composed. Nothing else comes close. Not Desmond’s “Take Five”, not Miles’ “So What”, not even Kenton’s “Intermission Riff”. What do those tunes have in common though? They were written by jazz musicians, and they were named after somewhat hip phrases, momentary breaks, or both. They also had simplistic two-word titles. How do you top these hip tunes? By naming your tune after a woman and giving it an even simpler one-word title. “Jeannine”.
Written by jazz pianist Duke Pearson, “Jeannine” is a rare example of a composition having the coolness written right into it, making it impossible for whoever plays it to not sound cool themselves. I’ve heard versions done by vibes and guitar, piano trio, and even a classical string quartet (seriously) and they’re all just the most. Did I mention that it’s one of my favorite tunes? Did I have to?
Opening the second side of the record, Cannonball Adderley’s group jumps right into the groove of “Jeannine”. Drummer Louis Hayes establishes the finger-popping tempo, bassist Sam Jones lays down the foot-tapping walk, and pianist Barry Harris adds the final ingredient: The syncopated background comping. With this delicious recipe of hipness, Cannonball and his brother Nat make their entrance and play the catchy melody. The melody is already nasty enough, but their arrangement that adds harmonies and moving lines makes for an even nastier performance. Jeannine must have been quite the woman. The solos on this track are about as perfect as they come. Cannonball starts with a simplistic line, then answers it in his following statement. From here, he dives fully into the tune, pouring note after soulfully jubilant note out of his saxophone to make some beautiful music. Nat follows with some clean cornet (almost like a trumpet and a flugelhorn had a baby), and Barry Harris follows that with some mellow piano. Bassist Sam Jones gets a chorus to pluck some plucky phrases, and then it’s back to the head to take the tune out. All in all, 7 minutes and 16 seconds of cool and soul.
Cannonball Adderley. There truly isn’t much I can say that hasn’t been said already by someone else. He possessed the most extroverted, effervescently soulful sound of any alto saxophonist and he never seemed to lack inspiration. In 1959, he left Miles Davis’ group, in which he had risen to fame for a year, and formed his own group with his brother Nat on complimenting cornet. The newly formed Cannonball Quintet was first captured on a live date in San Francisco, and the record of that appearance became a hit. For their second album, they recorded a studio album featuring both original material and jazz standards. The first recording session took place in New York shortly after 1960 began and featured Cannonball’s original quintet, with Bobby Timmons on piano. By the time the second recording session rolled around in March, Timmons had departed for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Barry Harris had taken his place.
My excitement and love for “Jeannine” notwithstanding, this album is famous for two tunes not named for a woman. Nat Adderley’s original tune “Work Song” kicks the album off, and it would become a jazz standard almost immediately. He had recorded it before (with Wes Montgomery, no less), but I view this version with his brother Cannonball as the definitive rendition. It’s absolutely dripping with soul. The second tune on the album is also the second famous tune, which also happens to be an original, this time by pianist Bobby Timmons. Named “Dat Dere”, as in ‘that there’, it’s a response to Timmons’ tune “This Here”, as in ‘dis here’, which appeared on the group’s initial live album. Timmons’ would later record this tune again with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, but the arrangement here shows that it was fully realized from the beginning. “Easy Living” is showcase for Cannonball’s balladry, and “Del Sasser” is another original, this time by bassist Sam Jones. Everyone but the drummer supplied an original for the album. “Soon” is done in a Miles Davis kind of vein, with Nat’s cornet firmly muted and quietly soloing over the equally muted rhythm section before Cannonball’s entrance shoots forth like a…cannon and the group is off. The album ends with what sounds like an improvised slow blues performance, credited to Cannonball. All in all, it’s a solid album with great performances throughout.
But “Jeannine” is the best.
You’re probably almost done listening to the sound clip above, so here’s a video of Cannonball’s group playing it live in Europe. Your welcome.
Raggy Waltz Rating: C
It’s a decent cover. No frills, no chance-taking; just middle-of-the-road artwork, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The font type is modern and contemporary and the use of color behind and with said font is tasteful. We’re treated to a color portrait of Cannonball Adderley, framed twice for importance. If I had to describe the cover with two words, I’d use ‘conservatively tasteful’. In the spirit of “Jeannine”, I’ll use one word for simplicity: ‘Bland’.
One thing I love about Riverside albums is their dependably similar liner information, complete with a picture or two of the artists at the actual recording session. Each Riverside album has the important recording info like the dates, location, and personnel prominently placed without fuss. Orrin Keepnews usually wrote the sometimes witty, always laudatory liner notes, and that’s the case here. The album jacket has seen better days, with a split at the top of the jacket and a frayed spine betraying it’s near-60 years of life. Actually, considering it was made in 1960, it’s held pretty well. Interestingly, peeking up at the top is what looks like an indication that Riverside printed album covers that said both mono and stereo. I’ve seen other independent record labels do this, too, and I imagine it was a money-saving practice that prevented having to print double the album covers. They could just use one cover and manipulate the positioning to reveal either the mono catalog number or the stereo signage. Pretty thrifty.
Pressed on deliciously deep groove vinyl, the labels sport Riverside’s distinctive blues with the mic and reel-to-reel logo. There were two versions of these blue labels with the mic and reel logo, which were basically identical save for a size difference of the logo. The early version sports a smaller logo that was mostly above the deep groove, the later version has a larger logo, with the logo cut more in the middle. This record sports the later version. To be even nerdier about it, the later label on this record doesn’t quite match with the year it was pressed. Or does it? The label, combined with the address on the back of the album jacket indicate that it was pressed in 1960. So far so good. 1960 was the year of transition between the differing labels, so it looks like this record has the later labels, which in 1960 were the brand new labels. Pretty cool.
As for the sound and quality of the vinyl, Riverside wasn’t known for their stellar audio quality. The two recording sessions are mic-ed differently and noticeably, yet both not as great as they could’ve been. At times, it sounds like a single overhead mic was used. On one hand, it makes for a more honest listening experience as you can hear the acoustics of the studio, but at the same time it can be somewhat distracting. Hayes’ drums are pretty overpowering in “Jeannine” while Harris’ piano is almost lost in the mix. As for the vinyl itself, it plays surprisingly quiet. I say surprising because the record was in the jacket without a protective sleeve. I never have high hopes for records without the inner sleeves, but this record was a pleasant surprise. In many areas it plays rather cleanly, almost like new.
The Place of Acquisition
If 1967 was the Summer of Love, 2019 was the Spring of Love. Both were based in California, and the latter caused me to be home in Redlands twice for weddings. On both occasions, I was able to go to the local record store a few hours before the nuptials and dig for records. On the second wedding day in March, I found a treasure trove of records, including this Cannonball album. Since it was missing its inner sleeve and was priced at $10, I didn’t have much hope for it but grabbed it anyhow on the strength of it being an original Riverside pressing. I’m glad I did, as when I got back to Sweet Home Alabama (yuck) and played it, I was blown away with how it sounded. It’s surprises like this that make record collecting fun and exciting. That and getting to know the record store workers, as the guy gave me quite a few records for free and for a discounted price! I’m not a college student anymore but I will ALWAYS take free and discounted jazz vinyl!