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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