Nippon Soul: Cannonball Adderley Sextet

CA Nippon Soul

Japanese audio equipment and studios have earned an enviable reputation and a multitude of artists have recorded there. However, the first American jazz artist to make a live recording in the Land of the Rising Sun is believed to be Cannonball Adderley, as recently as the summer of 1963. Orrin Keepnews, obviously unaware of the sonic standards aspired to in Japan when he penned his original sleeve notes, writes: ‘Through the cooperation of Philips Records of Japan, obviously the possessors of equipment and engineering skills fully up to American standards, Sankei Hall became the scene of what is probably the first recording of American jazz artists in that country.’

These Tokyo concerts feature Cannonball and his brother Nat appearing with an excellent sextet alongside Yusef Lateef and Joe Zawinul with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes on bass and drums.

The performance opens with the title track, Nippon Soul, a fresh strolling blues composition written for the Japanese by Cannonball, who is on fine form on alto. Yusef Lateef then comes in on flute, which is overblown to great effect as his solo ends. Joe Zawinul offers a neat piano solo before the band reprise the head of the piece.

Easy to Love is an uptempo reading of the Cole Porter standard played hard bop style. Porter originally wrote the song for the hit musical Anything Goes but it was dropped due to the high notes which were difficult for male artists to hit. It was recycled into the 1936 film Born To Dance, where it was sung by Jimmy Stewart and Eleanor Powell. The original lyrics contained a couplet involving “…sweet to waken” and “sit down to eggs and bacon” but the likely implications of breakfast shared by an unmarried couple was too rich for the Hollywood censor and it was struck out to prevent outrage in middle-America. Billie Holliday recorded a notable version and it also appears on Charlie Parker with Strings.

The Weaver is the first of two Yusef Lateef compositions. The track is a blues dedicated to Lee Weaver, a close childhood friend of the Adderley’s. To these ears, this has a very early-60’s New York City feel and it is hard to imagine it having been written without that location in mind. By July 1963 Lateef had been working in Adderley’s band for nearly two years, a period which he later wrote of as allowing him the necessary time to aspire to lead in his own right again and to further develop his own musicianship.

The concise driving jazz tango that is Tengo Tango was recorded prior to the release of the album as a single and the sleeve confirms that the band liked to play it as a short piece without lengthy solos.

Come Sunday is a section from Duke Ellington’s seminal Black, Brown and Beige suite arranged by Joe Zawinul and it is a sensitive and relaxed number featuring a delicate duet between the pianist and bass player Sam Jones.

Finally on the original album version, Brother John is dedicated to John Coltrane and features composer Lateef on an Oboe played in a free sounding manner which melds sweet with sour flavours. The following YouTube file was uploaded by Brother John:-

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

My vinyl copy has the appearance of an original first pressing but closer examination of the sleeve and label reveal that it is actually a release made and sold by Fontana records. The guide to Riverside pressings on the London Jazz Collector website confirms that my copy was made at Philips’ Dutch plant and may well be of lower audio quality than one pressed in the UK. Caveat emptor as those crafty old Latin linguists used to write. I wonder how many original American pressings were imported to the UK prior to local release. Not a massive number, one would suppose?

CD copies also includes a brisk live version of Nat Adderley’s Worksong, which Cannonball introduces as a tune in the set by popular demand in acknowledgement of its local popularity.

Nippon Soul is a live recording that is well worth seeking out. The sextet are caught in the delivery of two excellent sets with both Lateef and Zawinul provided with a showcase for their talents courtesy of a very generous leader, whose own contribution is outshone by those of these two band members.

The band etc: Julian ‘Cannonball Adderley (alto sax); Nat Adderley (cornet); Yusef Lateef (flute, oboe & tenor sax); Joe Zawinuul (piano); Sam Jones (double bass); Louis Hayes (drums). Recorded: 14 & 15 July 1963. Live in Sankei Hall, Tokyo. Produced & recorded: Junat Productions. Sleeve Notes: Orrin Keepnews. Cover painting: Tom Daly. Cover design: Ken Deardoff. Issued as Riverside RLP 477 in 1963.

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Simon Spillett, Ted Beament, Simon Thorpe & Clive Fenner: Live at East Side Jazz Club: 12 July 2016

Simon Spillett 120716

Simon Spillett has been on my ‘to hear list’ of tenor saxophonists for a while now and the East Side Jazz Club offered an opportunity to catch up with him. Tubby Hayes has been a particular influence on his playing and last night’s set was largely made up of tunes that Hayes had covered. Opening with a lively Royal Ascot, the set moved through Like Someone in Love and Alone Together through to Miles Davis’ Vierd Blues, Polkadots and Moonbeams and The Theme.

Spillett’s playing combined fluent dexterity with fleeting references to a veritable history of jazz riffs and it was good to hear fine controlled mainstream soloing. Simon Thorpe, last seen a couple of weeks ago at the same venue with Vasilis Xenopoulis had gigged with Spillett in the previous week. The live sound from his double bass was a joy to listen to and his solos and runs added to the programme, rather than merely filling it out. I don’t think I’ve encountered Bob Beament’s piano before but he impressed on East Side’s trusty upright, combining delicate softly played single notes with great percussive chords and leading this non-pianist to ponder the mysteries of effective pedal work. The guests excelled, as did Clive Fenner on drums, who was given more space than usual with plenty of ‘fours’ and longer fills afforded by Spillett’s benign leadership. Spillett told us that Beament had last played at East Side 18 years ago and it never ceases to astound how four musicians can meet up without rehearsal and deliver such an engaging performance. That’s the essence of what good professional live jazz is about, I guess.

The second set featured There is No Greater Love, Misty, It Could Happen To You and Caravan, before Beament and Spillett produced Blue Monk, which was of particular interest as I am currently reading Robin D.G. Kelley’s excellent ‘Thelonious Monk: The life and times of an American Original’.

Throughout the performance Spillett interspersed the music with tales that displayed a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour and I look forward to reading his acclaimed recent book on Tubby Hayes when funds allow.

The East Side Jazz Club is closed until 20 September 2016 but downwithit will be back there in the autumn to catch a selection of the consistently high standard performances.

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Pharoah Sanders live at Ronnie Scott’s: First set- 9 July 2016

Pharoah Journey To The One

You know what? Those of us who enjoy this music are very fortunate. It is possible to see musicians from the simply great to absolutely world-class standard perform in small venues. Saturday night offered a long awaited opportunity to see Pharoah Sanders perform live again, this time in the comfortable, indeed salubrious surroundings of Ronnie Scott’s.

Regular readers will be aware of my enjoyment of Pharoah’s music and may have noticed that I have posted links to reviews of a number of his recent American gigs. You may even have noted an underlying wistfulness as time passed without news of a UK gig. Eventually though this evening, almost on my doorstep in London, was announced.

Pharoah was accompanied by his regular pianist William Henderson and his European rhythmn section. Gene Calderazzo on drums is an alumni of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where a roommate was none other than Branford Marsalis, while bass player Oli Hayhurst was a founder member of Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble.

Pharoah played Origin, which first appeared as a septet version featuring scat vocals on the 1981 Rejoice set and again six years later in an earthier stripped down quartet context on Africa. Set like a diamond in the precious metal setting of his superb accompanists it seemed unlikely that we would witness the extensive explorations reliant on circular breathing but the tone was there and Pharoah’s spirit will never waiver.

John Coltrane’s beautiful love song for his first wife, Naima, was delivered with great sensitivity before Pharoah, ramped up the passion with a powerful rendition of Highlife, another selection from Rejoice. His expressive chants were matched with an equally strong saxophone part.

The band were of the highest calibre, although I am puzzled by why William Henderson doesn’t seem to have recorded as a leader as his playing has merited this for years. A trio performance featuring himself, Calderazzo and Hayhurst, perhaps on a small label like Smoke Sessions could be brilliant.

My evening was made when Pharoah graciously signed a couple of CD booklets that I had brought with me on the off chance (which is why this article has a picture of my CD copy of Journey To The One at the head). Even if you were to offer me three John Coltrane’s, four Monk’s or ten Miles Davis signed items these are momentos that I will never part with.

Evenings like this are gems to be stored up in the memory, treasured and returned to when times get tough. Unfortunately, the set was a short club sized morsal and all too soon it was time for the attentive staff to turn us out to the bright lights and crowds of an early Soho night. Oh for the old days when you could watch the early set at Ronnie’s and stay on for the second performance! Still, I also have memories of longer free-blowing sets at Dingwalls and The Jazz Cafe from the distant past to recall. I understand that Pharoah may have played other songs from his repertoire including You’ve Got To Have Freedom in his second set (if you were there, please leave a comment and let us know).

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East Side All Star R & B Band: Live at East Side Jazz Club: 5 July 2016

East Side All Stars

With the holiday season fast approaching and jazz summer schools in the South of France beckoning the East Side Jazz Club hosted its (almost) end of season spectacular. Once again, this featured an all star band made up of three members of Jools Holland’s R & B Orchestra: Derek Nash (saxophones), Winston Rollins (trombone) and Chris Storr (trumpet) supplemented by Dave Ital on guitar, Geoff Gascoyne (bass), Pete Whittaker (organ) and the ever-present Clive Fenner (drums).

The irrepressible Derek Nash, musical director and MC for the evening, explained that the set would be showcasing the talents of Pete Whitaker on Hammond Organ and we would be visiting the work of The Incredible Jimmy Smith (hopefully without the rather spicy language that Smith occasionally used). Without further ado we were Back At the Chicken Shack, followed by I’m Comin’ Home by Bob Dorough.

Every member of the band is a great soloist and each was given plenty of space to show what they could do. As I said when I reviewed the same line up in the summer of 2014, Pete Whittaker was excellent on the Hammond emulator, although I would love to hear him play the real thing coupled with the power and presence of Leslie speakers, which can take your breath away. Jimmy McGriff’s Mod classic All About My Girl was great nonetheless.

An original Derek Nash composition, The Chant, took us into latin territory, with the audience, Storr and Rollins ably supplying the vocals. It was then time for Dave Ital to cut loose on guitar on the JBs signature piece, Pass The Peas. His inventive and very funky solo showed why he has shared a stage with Nile Rogers.

The first set closed with Joe Liggins The Honeydripper, the title track of Brother Jack McDuff’s 1961 Prestige album, which feature Grant Green on guitar. After such a hot performance audience and band were all ready for a long cooling drink.

Following the break Derek Nash introduced Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon, which I took a look at here in February 2016. Although we didn’t have either Lee Morgan or Tina Brooks in the house, Chris Storr (fresh from trumpet duties at Gregory Porter’s Glastonbury performance) and Nash were more than capable substitutes, although Pete Whittaker did not need to play long alarm notes to stop Derek Nash in the way Jimmy Smith had to do to Brooks on the original recording. After this we went down yonder to New Orleans and the funk of The Meters Cissy Strut. In a show of peak performances, the cutting contest, to see who could play the most intense solo, that pitted Rollins trombone against Nash’s tenor saxophone brought smiles to every face, including that of an otherwise very serious Chris Storr, who, having added his own highlights, savoured what he was hearing from stage right. The band were joined by feisty vocalist Jo Harman who will be appearing at BluesFest later this year and who supplied an extra dimension to the proceedings.

The night concluded with two final Jimmy Smith tunes. Nash, Storr and Rollins accepted the challenge of replicating Lalo Schifrin’s twelve piece brass section on The Cat with Nash seeming to channel the powerful sound of King Curtis who must have been looking down on Leytonstone last night (or maybe that’s just a flight of fancy from me), while Eight Counts For Rita reminded me that my Jimmy Smith collection is not quite complete as I don’t have his late career Dot Com Blues set yet.

Thanks to these great musicians for being willing to turn out for this suburban gig and all credit to Clive Fenner and colleagues for the calls made. It’s live performances of this quality that keep the music alive. It was another great evening at The East Side Jazz Club, where there is one final pre summer break chance to hear more great music when Simon Spillett appears with Ted Beaumont and Alec Dankworth on Tuesday 12 July.

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Vasilis Xenopoulos, Nigel Price, Simon Thorpe & Clive Fenner: Live at East Side Jazz Club: 28 June 2016

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At the end of June 2016 disappointment holds sway, from the ballot box to the football field and Tuesday night saw me heading off to Leytonstone for some respite at the East Side Jazz Club. It is amazing how time flies and it is probably over 12 months since my last visit. Indeed it was my first visit to the new venue (Leytonstone and District Ex-Servicemen’s Club) with its floral kitsch stage dressing providing an unexpected splash of colour.

I was drawn by Vasilis Xenopoulos, a Greek tenor saxophonist and graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He shared the stage with guitar and bass stalwarts, Nigel Price and Simon Thorpe with the ever-present Clive Fenner on drum and MC duties.

Xenopoulis immediately won the audience over with his engaging personality before slowly revealing his excellent command of his instrument throughout a set which was made up of mainstream standards such as I Remember You, Autumn Leaves, Witchcraft and Imagination. I was equally impressed by the inventive guitar work of Nigel Price, whose schedule of forthcoming gigs confirms the the ex- James Taylor Quartet member is massively in demand. I have a weakness for good jazz guitar and was delighted when the third number of the set, Grant Green’s Mambo Inn was introduced.

East Side always have a raffle during the interval and one of this week’s prizes was a CD copy of Oliver Nelson’s Blues And The Abstract Truth. Such was the versatility of this outfit that Vasilis was able to call Stolen Moments, one of the highpoints of the recording, seemingly on the spur of the moment, with the band delivering a solid version. Also of particular note was Nigel Price’s mash-up of Monk and Charlie Parker on Straight No Bounce which was an unlikely but excellent melding of Billie’s Bounce and Straight No Chaser.

Throughout the show, Simon Thorpe and Clive Fenner provided a rock-solid foundation and were able to show what they are capable of through their own short solos.

All in all, another fine night at East Side Jazz Club, where you are assured a warm welcome every week and which is well worth a visit (although they will be taking their summer break after 12 July through to 20 September). Indeed, next week’s annual visit by Derek Nash and the East Side R & B Band is highly recommended and a review from 2014 is here.

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