Monday, March 12, 2007


Cannonball Adderley Quintet, You Got It!
Modern Jazz Quartet, Odds Against Tomorrow.

Throughout October 1959, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet was in residency at a club called the Jazz Workshop, in the North Beach district of San Francisco. One night Dmitri Shostakovich, looking to hear for the first time "authentic American jazz," walked into the club and sat with his entourage for an hour, listening to the quintet. He said nothing, but sometimes clubgoers saw him smiling, and during a Louis Hayes drum solo Shostakovich leaned forward at his table, as if drawn to the stage by sheer magnetism.

Shostakovich wasn’t the only one -- on the weekends in particular, the crowds for the Adderley Quintet were such that you couldn’t physically get into the club unless someone else left, and so people stood in the street, blocking traffic, trying to hear the band.

Julian "Cannonball" Adderley had spent much of 1957 through 1959 playing in the Miles Davis Sextet until he left to form his own group, which consisted of his brother, Nat Adderley, on cornet, Bobby Timmons on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Hayes on drums. Observing Davis, with whom he recorded such records as Milestones and Kind of Blue, Adderley had increased the use of space in his performances, and narrowed the scope of his solos while deepening their intensity. In Cannonball's composition “You Got It!” rhythmic drive and ambition (the way Hayes seems to be a beat away from veering off into his own world) is matched by solos that, while still intricate, seem to be striving more for emotional resonance than sheer exuberance. (Nat Adderley's cornet solo in particular.) Night after night at the Jazz Workshop, the entire club would be stomping along with the beat.

Recorded at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco on October 18-20, 1959. On the essential In San Francisco.

A world away, the Modern Jazz Quartet was making music for bad dreams. "Odds Against Tomorrow," written by John Lewis as part of his score for the Robert Wise film of the same title (a strange late noir starring Harry Belafonte), is the MJQ at its most austere, haunting and sublime.

Many of the MJQ's tracks could be described as extended conversations between Lewis on piano and Milt Jackson on vibes, and "Odds" begins with Lewis ruminating, repeating the same figures over and over again, while Jackson bends notes, as if he means to interrogate Lewis, or muse along with him. (As Gary Giddins wrote, Jackson began his career as a singer, and there's a haunting vocal sound to his vibes playing in this performance.) Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums testify quietly. The whole piece is a crystalline marvel.

Recorded October 9, 1959; on the film's soundtrack.

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