Washington, DC, correspondent John Birchard ventures into the jazz wilds of the US capital in search of live music and reports to Rifftides readers on what he hears. This time, the event was a tribute concert.
By John Birchard
It could have been 1962. On Saturday evening at Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, a quintet of musicians from the Smithsonian Jazz Master Works Orchestra presented Portrait of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. The band was headed by the orchestra’s lead alto player, Charlie Young, who served as master of ceremonies. Trumpeter Tom Williams played Nat Adderley’s parts. The rhythm section was pianist Bob Butta, bassist James King and drummer Ken Kimery.
The program concentrated on Adderley’s years at Riverside Records, with which he signed following his stint with Miles Davis, and specifically on 1959 through 1961. The transcribed arrangements came from five LPs … In San Francisco, Them Dirty Blues, …At the Lighthouse, …Quintet Plus and Know What I Mean? The quintet played them as faithful recreations of the charts, but with the present-day musicians’ own solos.
This correspondent was a jazz disc jockey during the years in question. I recall the anticipation with which I greeted each new Cannonball Adderley LP. The performances at Baird generated a good measure of the same excitement. Hearing those arrangements again brought back happy memories of the Adderley band. One can argue whether nostalgia is the role jazz should play, but it satisfied the near-capacity crowd of gray-hairs who were no doubt around for the original performances.
The tour of memory lane began with Bobby Timmons’s “This Here”, the familiar piano intro in ¾ time leading into the equally familiar alto-trumpet blend on the melody. Charlie Young recaptured Julian’s overall sound and earthy quality on this and every tune (with one exception) during the evening. The Randy Weston composition “Hi-Fly” came next, followed by Cannonball’s own “You Got It”, the quintet taking the intricate chart at a blistering tempo. Nat Adderley’s popular “Work Song” prompted cheers and applause for the crisp rhythm section work, especially Kimery’s drumming. The first half of the concert closed with Adderley bassist Sam Jones’s “Del Sasser.”
Following intermission, there was a second Bobby Timmons tune – “Dat Dere.” Then the quintet explored a couple of pieces from Victor Feldman’s time with Adderley, first “Lisa” (from the 1961 recording The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Plus). “Azul Serape” followed. Both incorporated Latin passages enhancing the tunes’ attractiveness. From Cannonball’s LP Know What I Mean? featuring pianist Bill Evans, Charlie Young played the melancholy Gordon Jenkins’ melody “Goodbye.” That’s when he departed from homage to Cannonball. Young has spent time with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and it’s clear that he has listened closely to the great Johnny Hodges. His approach to the old Benny Goodman closing theme was more Hodges than Adderley. Never mind; it was effective, moving ballad playing.
The evening of rhythmic recollection came to a brisk close with the quintet playing Vic Feldman’s “Exodus”, not to be confused with the movie theme. All the qualities the SJMO quintet brought to the Adderley charts were in evidence – tight, well-rehearsed ensembles, spirited solos and an enthusiasm for the well-crafted compositions and arrangements made famous by the Tampa Cannonball. If this be nostalgia, our vote’s in favor. Later in the year, Freddie Hubbard will be remembered in similar fashion by the Smithsonian gang.
As a video footnote to John’s review, here’s a mid-1960s performance of one of the tunes the Smithsonians chose from the Adderleys’ repertoire. It comes from the Jazz Scene USA television program. Cannonball, alto sax; Nat, cornet; Joe Zawinul, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Louis Hayes, drums. Yusef Lateef, a member of the band at the time, sits this one out. Julian introduces the piece.