The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco // Cannonball Adderley (Riverside RLP 12-311)

2019 is almost over and I have a ton of albums that I’ve acquired throughout the year that I haven’t yet gotten around to writing about. In the waning days of the decade, I’m attempting to correct that. The last time I was back home in California this past March, I made a stop by the local record store and grabbed numerous albums. My grandpa made comments on what I had gotten, many of which I included in this post. Later this week, I’ll be flying back home to California for his funeral and thus thought it fitting to finally get around to writing about those records that he verbally approved (or disapproved) as a tribute the man most responsible for getting me started down the jazz trail. So without getting too sentimental and emotional, to the music!


The Music

The Tune: “This Here”
Recorded: 18 & 20 October, 1959 live at The Jazz Workshop, San Francisco, CA
Personnel:

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

As is the usual case, I don’t know which track to feature. The entire album is phenomenal, with an infectious groove that’s catchier than a rash. Recorded live at The Jazz Workshop, a club in San Francisco, California, this album captured Cannonball Adderley on his own after having been with Miles Davis for a year and a half. Fronting his own band, with his brother Nat on cornet (which is NOT a trumpet), the soulful Bobby Timmons, himself fresh off a stint with Art Blakey, the firm bass of Sam Jones and the solid drumming of Louis Hayes, Cannonball’s band was a force to be reckoned.

Cannonball’s voice opens the record as he explains what the next tune is. Following the introduction, the group begins the tune that would help the launch the album into massive popularity and make Bobby Timmons somewhat famous. “This Here” contains a potent amount of groove, and despite being a waltz, produces some of the album’s most impassioned swinging. Cannonball gets a delicious quote from Leonard Bernstein’s “I Feel Pretty” off, repeating and inverting it in an inspired moment of soloing. Bobby Timmons’ building solo is a treat, starting with single notes to thundering chords that really wail. Everyone cooks on this track, and the cooking session is just beginning when the tune ends twelve minutes later.

While “This Here” was a blues in 3/4 waltz time, “Spontaneous Combustion” is another iteration of the blues but in standard 4/4 time. The sparks truly fly on this track from the moment the rhythm section kicks into the tune, immediately locking into a firm pocket groove. The shuffling melody induces some serious head-bobbing, and then Cannonball’s off with a classic and typically nasty soul-dripping solo. Cannonball’s horn naturally lives in Soulsville, but on this album, Cannonball’s alto sax moved to Funky Town. Mercy. Nat’s cornet solo is full of spunk as well, but where Cannonball breathed fire, Nat uses thoughtful pauses and breaks to heighten his solo. Fantastic throughout, Timmons lights into the piano with full-bodied chords and rhythmic patterns that surely had the whole club rocking with Hayes’ drums. Cannonball and Nat return for some improvised call-and-response before taking the tune out.

The rest of the album unfolds in much the same manner, with the group in peak form treating the vocal and appreciative audience to some of the best jazz of 1959 (or any year, honestly). This was Cannonball’s first album as leader of his new group, at least on Riverside, and what an album he made. Producer Orin Keepnews luckily allowed the clock to run, choosing lengthy performances over short ones. As a result, the album is a long one for the time period but an accurate snapshot of what the group sounded like on a good night in a jazz club, preserved for posterity for those of us who couldn’t make it to a table in October of ’59.

This album is pretty famous in jazz circles and is considered essential by many. Putting it on my turntable and dropping the needle for the first time, I could immediately understand why. There aren’t many albums that contain as much unpretentious soul and swing that this record has, and the generous playing times of the tracks show that they were playing for themselves and the club patrons, not Keepnews and Riverside Records. It was just business as usual, but with a mic and a tape recorder in the room. And it was recorded on the West Coast? Amen.

It’s been said that this album was the beginning of the sub-genre of jazz known as ‘soul jazz’, that gospel-tinged, blues-drenched form of jazz that was all the rage in the 1960’s. Allmusic reviewer Anthony Tognazzini agrees, going as far as to postulate that this album could be Cannonball’s “defining moment.” I don’t know if I’d call it soul jazz. It’s some burning straight-ahead jazz, played by some soulful men. Real soulful. And at the end of the day, that’s what all good jazz should be- soulful.

The Cover

Raggy Waltz Rating: B

This is a rather formal, yet informal, photograph. The fact that it’s in color is overshadowed by the fact that it’s underexposed. In other words, the picture is a bit too dark. So dark is it that we barely see that Nat Adderley is sporting monk strap shoes in 1959, a huge style move and something that deserves kudos. Other than that, it’s a wonderful cover, capturing a light-hearted moment between the brothers, with the typography set pleasingly to the left in the dark. It’s nice, clean, and effective. As always, it’s forever a win to have the black musicians featured on the covers of their own albums.

The Back

San Francisco critic and writer Ralph Gleason contributes the laudatory liner notes, complete with such exclamations like “…I have never seen anything like this happen before”, things Gleason seems to say on every album he writes liner notes for (I have Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi albums to prove it). The photograph is nice, albeit dark as well. The shrinkwrap was still on it when I got it. I didn’t know until this year that there is a fierce battle being waged amongst record collectors concerning whether shrinkwrap should stay on or be taken off. Because I’m a sucker for posterity and history, I personally prefer to keep the shrinkwrap on and to save the old price tags. I figure that if the shrinkwrap lasted all these decades, who am I to remove it, especially if it’s helped to keep the album jacket in pristine condition? Only in special cases do I take it off. In this case, it’s staying on.

The Vinyl

I lucked out with a beautiful, near-mint original mono copy with severe deep-groove. It’s a deep-groove mono (insert shameless plug for my friend Richard Capeless’ website here)! Is it a first pressing? Sure. There’s a way to find out, concerning the size of the reel-to-reel symbol at the top of the label, but I honestly don’t care. It’s from the original run, it’s deep groove, and the vinyl is deliciously minty and clean. The mono recording quality is alright. It’s not perfect, sounding rather boxy and hemmed in, but it’s not terrible. I’d love to compare a stereo pressing of the recording with this one, as the digital version of this album online sounds spacious and glorious.

The Place of Acquisition

Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is one of the many records I grabbed from my hometown record store in Redlands, named, aptly enough, Redlands Vinyl. I was cautiously excited when I found it due to its condition and price. It had three price tags affixed to the album jacket, the most recent one naturally being the most expensive at $19.99. “$20 for this album???”, I thought. “Must be a reissue or something”. I flipped the album over but didn’t see a bar code. “Hmmm, the vinyl must be scratched and thrashed.” I took the record out, and was dumbfounded when I saw that it was a pristine, deep-groove album with the original labels. At this point, I started looking around, wondering if the record store worker knew that this record was this price for this condition. I had passed on an Original Jazz Classic (OJC by Fantasy) reissue of this album a few years back because it was too expensive at $25.00, so to find an original in the wild for only $20? Wild.

Showing my grandpa this record later that afternoon when I got back to his house, he was just as happy to see the album as I had been. I can’t remember if he said he had seen Cannonball live before, but he hadn’t heard of the album before. I’m sure he would’ve enjoyed listening to it.

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