Bonhomie oozes from this album.

 SteepleChase SCCD 36505

Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone); Nat Adderley (trumpet); Victor Feldman (piano, vibraphone); Sam Jones (bass); Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded Copenhagen 13 April 1961

When Cannonball first played New York, he was welcomed as a successor to Charlie Parker.  Easy to see why, Cannonball has the fluency and a tone that has a serrated edge.   The special value of Cannonball’s music is that there is little that is startlingly new about it but it was contemporary in conception and steeped in the traditions of jazz.  Adderley was a populiser.  He could sense what would play with an audience, luckily it was what he wanted to play.  He was a player with a secure sense of swing and an alto sound reminiscent of Parker in addition to a touch of sanctified soul and gospel. His energetic effortless style, eloquent and outgoing.  encouraged audiences to warm to his optimism: a consolidator rather than an innovator.

Nat Adderley is the surprise of the album and in many ways he edits his solos in contrast to his loquacious brother. Consistently underrated and underappreciated, Nat started his professional life trying to sound like Chet Baker. He moved eventually to work on the Gillespie approach.  He believed the reason that the Adderley music was appreciated was because it was based on the Black Southern Church, not the classical tradition.

Victor Feldman is one of the few UK musicians who moved successfully to the US. He was a composer: he wrote four of the pieces on the album. Before joining Cannonball, he worked with Woody Herman and Shelly Manne.  His percussive piano playing is featured throughout.

The superb rhythm section powers all the music. Louis Hayes eventually spent six years with Cannonball.  He is one of the key bop drummers.  His work on this album shows him to be the kind of drummer who works for the band rather than to inflate his own ego. The fluidity of Sam Jones playing is matched by the rich sound he plucks from his bass.  Eventually he spent seven years with Cannonball.

The rolling rhythm of ‘Exodus opens the album before a scorching solo from Cannonball establishes the joyful mood.  A more restrained solo from Nat has him, after a while, reaching for the upper register.  Victor Feldman tries to keep the intensity high.

Randy Weston’s ‘Hi Fly’ is introduced by Feldman on piano and the jaunty theme is played before Feldman turns to the vibraphone with the alto and trumpet punctuating the vibraphone solo.  Nat Adderley’s solo is slightly more abstract than some of this other work.  The assertive Cannonball finishes the piece with a flourish.

The group uncoils Tadd Dameron’s ‘Our Delight’ with energy and zest. The speed suits Cannonball who races ahead to challenge; his brother who is less happy with the tempo. Feldman uses the vibes for his solo before Louis Hayes has a brief musical comment.

‘Serenity’ is one of those pieces that is programmed to give the alto and trumpet some respite.  It is a tune that is shapely, rhapsodic, romantic and not very memorable.  However, the interplay with Sam Jones gives the piece added depth.

‘Sack O’ Woe’ and ‘This Here’ are feel-good pieces precursors of the kind of compositions that Cannonball would play in the future such as ‘Mercy Mercy’.  In 1961, at a time when others were experimenting, Cannonball played straightahead jazz.  This album was recorded at a time, just after his stint with Miles Davis on ‘Kind of Blue’.  Cannonball connected with audiences who appreciated the great passion that he could bring to his improvisation.

Record producer Orrin Keepnews described Cannonball as ‘one of the most completely alive human beings I had ever encountered:  a big man and a joyous man.’ You get a sense of some of those qualities when listening to the music of this night in Copenhagen.

Reviewed by Jack Kenny