Cellar Live

RECORD LABELS – CELLAR LIVE

If you’re not already familiar with it, you need to take a look at Cellar Live, one of the freshest independent jazz labels out there.

Cellar Live was formed in 2001 by tenor saxophonist, impresario and club owner Cory Weeds, who began taping the performances of visiting artists in his Cellar Club in Vancouver, Canada.

By now, his label consists of Cellar Live, Cellar Music and ReelToReal, subsequently focusing on live records, studio projects and archival releases. The latest historical release was Johnny Griffin/Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’s Ow. See review here.

Cellar Live’s aesthetic of honoring and extending the mainstream jazz tradition is expressed through recordings of, among others, Grant Stewart, Joe Magnarelli, Jeb Patton, Emmet Cohen, Scott Hamilton, Mike LeDonne, Adam Shulman, Louis Hayes, Cannonball Adderley and Cory Weeds himself, who among other endeavors lauds one of modern jazz’s greatest stylists, Hank Mobley, both in the studio and on stage. His record label’s organ combo roster features Ben Paterson, among others.

The newest release in Cellar Live’s ReelToReal division will be George Coleman’s In Baltimore – due November 27, Record Store Day Black Friday. The statement of Zev Feldman, producer and collaborator of Cory Weeds, reads as follows:

“The George Coleman Quintet “In Baltimore” was captured live at the Famous Ballroom on May 23, 1971, presented by the Left Bank Jazz Society, and featured a stellar band with trumpeter Danny Moore, pianist Albert Dailey, bassist Larry Ridley and drummer Harold White. The limited-edition 180g LP includes an elaborate insert with beautiful photos by Francis Wolff, intros by Cory and I, a main overview essay by the great jazz historian/archivist Michael Cuscuna, plus interviews with “the Big G” himself George Coleman, John Fowler from the Left Bank, and the self-described Coleman disciple, tenor man Eric Alexander.”

Top-notch jazz and the roots-y vibe of the label, which gives meticulous care to detail in the presentation of its hip record covers and includes a number of endearing references to classic sleeve art, makes rummaging through its recordings a very joyful experience.

Check out Cellar Live’s website here.

Philly Joe Jones - Big Band Sounds

Philly Joe Jones Big Band Sounds (Riverside 1959)

Whether you decide to call it Drums Around The World or Big Band Sounds, the star-studded second record of Philly Joe Jones on Riverside is a blast from start to finish.

Philly Joe Jones - Big Band Sounds

 

 

 

Personnel

Philly Joe Jones (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Benny Golson (tenor saxophone), Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Herbie Mann (flute, piccolo), Wynton Kelly (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Sam Jones (bass)

Recorded

on May 4, 11 & 28, 1959 in NYC

Released

as RLP 12-302 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Blue Gwynn
Stablemates
El Tambores (Carioca)
Tribal Message
Side B:
Cherokee
Land Of The Blue Veils
Philly J.J.


Get in the driver’s seat and take a listen to Philly Joe Jones and his sparring partners of May 1959, a who’s who of the hard bop era: Lee Morgan, Blue Mitchell, Benny Golson, Cannonball Adderley, Sahib Shihab, Curtis Fuller, Herbie Mann, Wynton Kelly, Sam Jones and/or Jimmy Garrison. Perfect foil for Philly Joe Jones’s vision of showcasing varying rhythms of the world. In the process, Jones made a record that sustains momentum throughout.

All Music, with the devoted indifference of the call center employee, says: “There is some strong playing but this set is primarily recommended to fans of Philly Joe Jones’s drum solo’s.”

There is but one punishment for people who keep uttering the word ‘recommended’. And that is to look at the cover of Herbie Mann’s Push Push for 24 hours straight.

Big Band Sounds is not an ego trip. Philly Joe Jones is part of the pack, who indeed briefly displays his prowess as a soloist, but most of all takes care to lead his buddies through a sublimely paced set of songs with a sterling variation of interludes. He’s driving force and snappy accompanist in-one. Danger hi-voltage! You gotta watch out with Philly Joe, he’s like the professional oven I recently bought, it heats much quicker than the consumer type oven and is hazardous to the health of your hands but it is, most of all, state of the art. The roasted chicken is killer bee.

Take Philly Joe Jones’s Blue Gwynn. Afro-Cuban powerhouse performance. A couple of uppercuts and a sparse cluster of notes from Philly Joe launches the band into the stratosphere. It’s a crafty piece, largely through the balanced variety of the roles of reed, brass and woodwind during theme and intermezzos. However, the performance is far from contrived, indeed strikingly organic. Morgan, Golson and Fuller have their fiery say. Morgan’s entrance is typically cocksure. You’re gonna love this one.

The Eastern-tinged Land Of The Blue Veils by Benny Golson, ensemble playing sans solo’s, is like a Brussel bonbon that melts on your tongue. Philly Joe’s adaptation of Vincent Youman’s CariocaEl Tambores – is an exciting trip to Brazil quoting evergreen Tico Tico in the process. Ray Noble’s Cherokee gets a wooping treatment, including witty Indian war cries. The Tribal Message is Jones in African mood, a great display of varying pitch, echo and effects, which involved a careful placement of the parts of Philly Joe’s kit all over the studio.

And the American rhythm and harmony, sedimentation of a different array of African minerals and European metals and turned into a very special brew, is represented by Golson’s Stablemates and Philly Joe Jones/J.J. Johnson’s Philly J.J, both hard-swinging cookers. Brass and reed figures stimulate the soloists of Stablemates, of which Golson is particularly heated. Philly Joe sets fire to Philly J.J.. The introduction (this is a record of introductions) by Jones is as filthy as they come, the language of a hustler taking care of business at the corner of Lexington and 110th Street. His rolls and snappy hi-hat crushes may be interpreted as having their origins in tribal communication and prefiguring rap music and at the end of the furious performance, no doubt it’s a wrap. Now you remember why Miles Davis wanted no one but Philly Joe for his First Great Quintet in 1956. Another Davis associate of that period, Cannonball Adderley, also excites considerably during Philly J.J. with his sole solo performance of the session. Philly J.J. is not blowing session fare. There’s a switch from breakneck speed to mid-tempo bounce and a reference to the intro during the dramatic climax that suggests careful planning by the then 36-year old drummer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Did I tell you that Philly Joe sounds out of sight? Drums were meant to sound like this!

The way music sounds affects our evaluation of it. We can experience the pure sound of a musician in a live setting – although purity is a relative concept. At any rate, the musician has to wait and see how he or she sounds on record. Studio sessions involve the manipulation of sound. Whom manipulates sounds most expertly and tastefully gets the best results. That’s why the acclaimed Dutch engineer Max Bolleman pointed out that the engineer is a member of the band. His instrument is his console.

Drums, the heartbeat of the band, make or break a record. In the 20’s and early 30’s, primitive equipment did not allow the drummer to play as he did during performance, since it was at risk of exploding if the drummer pounded on a complete drum kit. Consequently, the drummer stuck to woodblocks and such, which is why we have to rely on oral history to imagine how, for instance, Baby Dodds sounded in the early part of his career.

This hardly bothered modern drumming. The 50’s and 60’s are sublime drum decades. By then, engineering had developed rapidly and considerably. Wouldn’t we nowadays hold Baby Dodds in even higher regard if he would have had “his” Rudy van Gelder or Roy DuNann?

I’ve always had the distinct passionate feeling that drums never sounded better than approximately from 1955 to 1965. The updated analog equipment was nifty but its track limitations forced the engineer to be creative, unlike swing and bop, which was an improvement of the early years of jazz but still suffered from the occasional cardboard box sound. And unlike the 70s and beyond, when multi-tracking, a limitless array of mics and digital technology more often than not has led to visionless mediocrity. The 50’s/60’s sound may not be as detailed compared to the thoroughly improved contemporary sound, but the overall sound is killer and the impact unforgettable. Call me a purist but the way to go as far as contemporary mainstream jazz recording is concerned is to at least strive for that 50/60’s sound.

There are countless examples of great-sounding drum records from that era. Big Band Sounds is but one example but a damn great one – notice, the (sub-) title says ‘sounds’. The synthesis of sound and high-level modern jazz playing is sublime. Man, not only does Philly Joe Jones display his unsurpassed fiery style, his sound is absolutely stunning! And big – notice, the (sub-) title says ‘big’. Booming. Snappy. The engineer is Jack Higgins. A round of applause for Jack.

And on your hands and knees, seated in the direction of the Mecca of jazz, for Philly Joe.

Brotherhood Of Man (And Sisterhood Of Woman, but which?)

BROTHERHOOD OF MAN –

Way back when, during that period when most jazz musicians eventually gravitated towards New York, musicians from the same origins usually had a special rapport. Everyone more or less felt comfortable in the presence of a fellow Native from Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore or St. Louis, sharing the same memories and peculiar cultural sensibilities of their hometown or place where they had grown up. One of the textbook examples of this sensibility is the Philadelphia connection of the Jazz Messengers line-up that Benny Golson arranged for Art Blakey, consisting of the Philly cats of Golson himself, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jimmy Merritt.

If citizenship is a bond, and to a lesser extent still is, imagine how close brothers and/or sisters that pursue careers always have been. In jazz, there are myriad examples of family ties, arguably more than in any other form of art. To a child, making music has always been more accessible than painting, sculpturing, cinema, photography. Households most of the time (and the church without exception) included a couple of instruments. And it was common practice for parents to direct their youngsters to the available bands – marching bands and the like.

Before the advent of the contraceptive pill, families were larger than today and thus held the promise of a bigger amount of interfamilial musicianship. Nonetheless the postmodern era spawned a number of sterling sibling configurations. Over the course of last week, a series of names popped into my head now and then, and some I found in books or liner notes I had coincidentally been reading. See below:

Hank, Thad and Elvin Jones. Wes, Monk and Buddy Montgomery. Conte and Pete Candoli. Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Bud and Richie Powell. Chuck and Gap Mangione. Lester and Lee Young. Jimmy, Percy and Albert Heath. Art and Addison Farmer. Johnny and Baby Dodds. Cecil and Ron Bridgewater. Michael and Randy Brecker. Kenny and Bill Barron. Ben and Gideon van Gelder. Wayne and Alan Shorter. Fletcher and Horace Henderson. George and Julia Lee. Kevin, Robin and Duane Eubanks. Roy and Joe Eldridge. Budd and Keg Johnson. I undoubtedly omitted a legion and I’m sad to say failed to bring in more than one woman into the equation. Help me out here.

To make matters more complicated and amusing, one need only point out the dynasty of father Ellis Marsalis and sons Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo. Indeed, the parent and sibling theme allows another round of pure jazz tidbit pleasure one may not perhaps view as pastime paradise but at any rate effectively kills time. There’s Albert and Gene Ammons. Jimmy and Doug Raney. You get the drift… Have fun!

Miles Davis - Milestones

Miles Davis Milestones (Columbia 1958)

Milestones still stands tall as a marvel of balance and power.

Miles Davis - Milestones

Personnel

Miles Davis (trumpet, piano A2), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (alto saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Recorded

on February 4 & March 4, 1958 at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York City

Released

as CL 1193 in 1958

Track listing

Side A:
Dr. Jekyll
Sid’s Ahead
Two Bass Hit
Side B:
Milestones
Billy Boy
Straight, No Chaser


There isn’t much more to ask for in mainstream jazz land than a listen to the First Great Miles Davis Quintet, augmented as a sextet with the inclusion of Cannonball Adderley on Milestones. The band, featuring John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, had been together for two years and its discography consisted of the series of Workin’, Relaxin’, Steamin’ and Cookin’ on Prestige and ‘Round About Midnight on Columbia, all classics in the hard bop canon. Milestones prefigures the most popular album of all-time, the modal masterpiece Kind Of Blue. The title track – titled Miles on the first pressings to avoid confusion with Davis’ earlier and different composition of Milestones – is the first attempt of Miles Davis at modal jazz.

The harmonic idea of using scales instead of chords is not a Miles Davis innovation – he codified and popularized it. And typically, he was involved in its inception. Pianist and composer George Russell, who wrote The Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization as the backbone of the innovation and co-wrote the modal-tinged Cubana Be/Cubana Bop for Dizzy Gillespie in 1947, once said that the 18-year old Miles Davis inspired him to develop the theory with a remark in 1944: “Miles said that he wanted to learn all the changes and I reasoned that he might try to find the closest scale for every chord.”

The seeds were sown and eventually developed into a big tree with the release of the modal masterpiece Kind Of Blue. However, it was preceded by the Milestones composition. And it’s the standout tune of the album. Based on two scales, the first relatively simple melody is stated fluently, while the second melody is more staccato. While offering a fresh wave of space for the soloists that was heretofore nonexistent in the chord-driven era, there also exists proper tension between the scales, keeping Cannonball, Davis and Coltrane on their toes. Plainly wonderful. Cannonball Adderley is first in line, which shows you that Miles Davis had the utmost respect for the blues-drenched, Charlie Parker-influenced alto saxophonist from Florida. Five days after Milestones, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley recorded the perennial favorite Somethin’ Else on Blue Note. It was a Miles Davis session but the Dark Prince offered leadership credits to Adderley. Adderley would, of course, be an important constituent of Kind Of Blue.

The three concise statements of Adderley, Davis and Coltrane during Milestones are marvels of economy and smooth propulsion. The way Davis uses space is especially brilliant and undoubtedly influenced the tales of his companions. His subtle and dark-blue, slight bending of notes is the finishing touch, always delivered at the exact right moment in time. Davis perfected his kind of blue-isms with the Harmony mute, but sticks to the open horn on the Milestones album – one of the reasons yours truly is particularly enamored by it. Davis continues his economy of phrasing throughout the session, quoting When The Saints Go Marching In in both Dr. Jekyll and Sid’s Ahead. Couple of saints at work right there in the studio of Columbia at 30th Street, Gotham City.

Jackie McLean’s bop tune Dr. Jekyll (Dr. Jackle on the original pressings) is distinctive for Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers’ snappy backing of the soloists. Generally accepted as a powerful battle between Coltrane and Adderley, I for one am not particularly fond of the frenzied trading of eights and fours between them. The raucous tombola of notes from Coltrane as the sole protagonist during the outstanding, tight-knit cooker Two Bass Hit is more successful, not to say spectacular. Thelonious Monk’s Straight No Chaser – John Coltrane’s rapid development from Davis, Monk and back to Davis again is the stuff of myth – moves along at a leisurely swinging pace. Davis fluffs a note during the end sequence. The fact that Davis agreed on the release of the best take of the afternoon regardless of his imperfect ending speaks volumes about the so-called Dark Prince’s generosity and professionalism.

Sid’s Ahead is a relaxed blues reworking of Walkin’, one of the starting points of hard bop from the Davis bag from 1954. Red Garland had a beef with Davis and walked out of the session. Davis switched from trumpet to piano. Perhaps as a result of the well-worn changes Paul Chambers is daydreaming and introduces his first solo statements while Cannonball seems to obliviously move on into his next chorus of soloing. Or do they miss the expert and forceful accompaniment of Red Garland? Or were the vibes temporarily cast in gloom because of Red’s sudden absence? Perfect irony: Garland was granted a piano trio feature that made it to the release. With sound reason, because Billy Boy is vintage Garland, a swinging, fluent, coherent mix of single lines and his innovative block chords. The spectacular bowed bass part by Chambers is the cherry on top.

A gathering of giants, with top form Miles Davis at the helm.

Cannonball & Keepnews

A CANNONBALL ADDERLEY PRESENTATION –

In 1960, saxophonist and bandleader Cannonball Adderley was ridin’ high. Adderley had found a record label – Riverside – that wholly supported his vision and further nurtured his considerable talents. His previous label, Mercury/EmArcy, was slow in releasing and promoting his recorded output. Although it had been a major step upwards after his rise on the scene in 1955, Adderley thoroughly regretted his signing a contract with that company in 1956.

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place when pianist Bobby Timmons, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes joined Cannonball and his brother Nat. During a tour on the West Coast, Cannonball, delighted by audience responses, suggested to label boss Orrin Keepnews to record a live performance. Keepnews gave the green light and the resulting record, In San Francisco, was a big seller, the gospel-tinged This Here by Bobby Timmons a hit. This Here represented Cannonball Adderley’s first steps on the path of his exploration of soul jazz.

Cannonball’s witty and insightful introductions of the compositions on In San Francisco hit the mark. Introducing his work was second nature to the genial alto saxophonist. In general, Cannonball was a busy bee, a vocal supporter of black jazz and the civil rights movement. Even before he made his name, Cannonball had been the organizer of the Army band in the late 40s.

He had a special rapport with Keepnews and soon acted as the A&R man of sorts. At the instigation of Cannonball, Riverside released a number of records of young talent/current colleagues that Cannonball thought deserved wider attention, the so-called A Cannonball Adderley Presentation albums. They were released over the course of two years, 1960-61.

Cannonball “presented” a number of cookin’ outfits, no surprise considering the Florida-born altoist’s impeccable taste and preference for blues-based jazz. The Paul Serrano Quintet’s Blues Holiday is a real groover. Trumpeter Paul Serrano is assisted by, among others, alto saxophonist Bunky Green and drummer Pete LaRoca. The J.F.K. Quintet’s New Frontiers From Washington D.C. (a lot of black musicians had high hopes of John F. Kennedy’s Presidency) is reminiscent of the soulful Jazz Crusaders. The group included bassist Walter Booker Jr., who would become the Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s bassist in the late sixties. Drummer Lenny McBrowne’s Eastern Lights is West Coast hard bop featuring fine writing by tenor saxophonist Donald Jackson. The Mangione Brothers’ – future heavyweights Chuck and Gap – got their first break on Riverside. The Jazz Brothers presents fresh, hot hard bop and features the fiery Sal Nistico on tenor saxophone.

Cannonball chose a couple of great tenor saxophonists. Veteran Buddy Johnson went as far back as the 20s, is best known for his long association with Earl Hines, served with Ellington, Basie and introduced bop players to the Hines and Coleman Hawkins bands. And The Four Brass Giants (line-up!) is pretty spectacular. The wonderful Clifford Jordan hadn’t recorded as a leader since his excellent stint on Blue Note in 1957 and after Spellbound would record three more records on Riverside’s subsidiary label Jazzland. Bluesy Don Wilkerson made his high-profile debut with Nat Adderley, Barry Harris, Sam Jones/Leroy Vinegar and Billy Higgins. Wilkerson’s style matured on Blue Note in the early sixties. Last but not least, Adderley coupled James Clay with David “Fathead” Newman for The Sound Of The Wide Open Spaces!!!!!, a hard-driving classic reviewed by Flophouse here.

The unknown pianist Roosevelt Wardell delivered The Revelation, a kind of gospel-tinged Bud Powell-influenced trio album. Flophouse also reviewed that album, see here. Finally, there’s At The Showboat by pianist Dick Morgan, another trio album, and a meaty session by Morgan, who has tinges of Les McCann, Ray Bryant, Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson, but whose hellhound-on-his-trail-ish, propulsive style is all his own.

Recommended diggin’!

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Country Preacher

Cannonball Adderley Quintet Country Preacher (Capitol 1969)

The hefty stew of boiling groovy thickness and powerful prayer meeting that is The Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s Country Preacher – Live At Operation Breadbasket is the climax in their book of epic live performances it began a decade earlier with In San Francisco and At The Lighthouse.

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Country Preacher

Personnel

Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone), Nat Adderley (cornet, vocals), Joe Zawinul (electric piano), Walter Booker (bass), Roy McCurdy (drums)

Recorded

in October, 1969 in Chicago

Released

as Capitol 404 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Walk Tall
Country Preacher
Hummin’
Oh Babe
Side B:
Afro-Spanish Omelet
a.Umbakwen
b.Soli Tomba
c.Oiga
d.Marabi
The Scene


The fundamental premise of Operation Breadbasket was equal economic opportunity for the black community. Founded by Leon Sullivan in Philadelphia in 1962 and further developed by Martin Luther King in Atlanta, it negotiated jobs for people in the ghetto and strived to correct the perverse fact that industries sold product in black neighbourhoods but seldom offered decent positions besides menial labor. Boycotting companies was but one of the strategies of the persuasive core of black ministry. King appointed Jesse Jackson as leader of the Chicago department, which fell under the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (SCLC) Chicago Breadbasket was a success, winning many new jobs. It also became a cultural event, inspired by the weekly Saturday sermons by Reverend Jesse Jackson. Jackson became the national director of Operation Breadbasket in 1967.

It was tangible. There was something in the air tonight. Cannonball, his voice a bit hoarse from a cold, his stomach presumably still digesting a copious meal, is up for the task. The band, simultaneously charged and relaxed, sits at the knees of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has provided a focused and fiery sermon, and subsequently is basking in the pleasure of hearing another exciting performance at an Operation Breadbasket meeting, in church in Chicago, and surely the most sizzling to date. The heat is on.

The Reverend, or the Country Preacher (the second tune of the album, Joe Zawinul’s Country Preacher, is dedicated to Jackson), was in full bloom in 1969, as can be heard on the quintet’s album on the Capitol label. Walk Tall is preceded by a spirited bit of sermonizing from Jackson, who can’t help spouting some painful, redeeming truths during his introduction of the band: ‘The most important thing of all is that, not matter how dreary the situation is, and how difficult it may be, that the storm really doesn’t matter until the storm begins to get you down, so I advice to you, the message The Cannonball Adderley Quintet brings to us, is that it’s rough and tough in this getto, a lot of funny stuff going down, but you gotta walk tall!, walk TALL!!, WALK TALL!!!’ Whereupon McCurdy, Booker and Zawinul put down a lurid boogaloo-ish groove, acted upon by the roaring unison brass and reed of Nat and Cannonball Adderley, a perfectly attuned imagination of the cathartic mirror Jackson held forth to the evening’s audience. The eloquent Cannonball, who also puts in a few strong-willed words, and the ambitious orator Jesse Jackson are a challenging match.

It is a match that raises questions too. Ever since the killing of Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, candidate for the Democratic presidential campaign in 1984 and 1988, has been a popular but controversial figure, perhaps never more so than immediately after that horrible event in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Although evidence was feeble, Jackson has always maintained the claim that he’d held the dying King in his arms, hence the blood on his turtleneck sweater. The turtleneck sweater controversy was born. A day after the murder of Reverend King, prime national spearhead of the black cause, Jackson appeared in a television show, wearing the bloody sweater and telling his story. King’s wife and close King associates, especially Ralph Abernathy, the former leader of the SCLC, were shocked and a schism in the SCLC and black power movement was a fact. The survivors and successors of the cause are fighting to this day, a shameful page in the story of black unity. Naturally, let there be no mistake, nothing should be taken away from Cannonball Adderley, who participated in the musical and socio-cultural event with the zest and goodwill we’ve come to associate with the amiable alto saxophonist. One keeps wondering though if Cannonball realized that, by embracing Jesse Jackson, the coldshouldering of Abernathy-and-friends was a logical consequence?

He definitely was conscious of his musical heritage. Prime ambassador for jazz, Cannonball had always been introducing the group’s music in humorous and insightful fashions, the initial introductions ten years earlier on the Live In San Francisco album functioning as a catalyst for soul jazz, or jazz for Chuck Chitlin & Big Mary (Bobby Timmons’ funky This Here the tune that got feet tappin’). In 1969, Cannonball again is the perfect host, elaborating concisely on the content of the compositions and the value of black music. As he succinctly and matter-of-factly explains during his introduction of the roaring 12-bar blues Oh Baby, ‘a soulful excursion into the past, the present AND the future of our music.’ It oozes pride for a truly American art form, a music born out of enslavement, degradation and misery, with a cast of legends that were unfortunately still unknown to most Americans. Perhaps he is not saying it very loud like James Brown, or anguished like Nina “Mississippi Goddamn” Simone, but the message is clear.

However, for the message to be clear, one has to think a bit further. Cannonball talks about black music. Assumingly, Cannonball, a streetwise, genial and intelligent personality, was of the opinion that black music is potentially inclusive, that at least a number of white men/women were able to play black music. One member of his group, Joe Zawinul, comes from Austria. Past member Victor Feldman was praised by Cannonball for his blues-infested skills. Cannonball’s cooperation with Bill Evans for the album Know What I Mean was one of his most gratifying experiences, not to say a major artistic achievement. In Evans’ case, surely Cannonball felt that something very distinctive was added to the music that had its origins in New Orleans. I’m guessing that Cannonball wouldn’t dispute the idea that whites had a distinct role in the development of jazz from the beginning. But he realized that the black experience intensifies the music, and that once you take away the core of jazz – the blues – you’re left with lifeless notes and tones. It was 1969, jazz had suffered blows, rock and pop reigned supreme, obviously Cannonball wanted to keep jazz real, fresh and energetic. Good job too!

By the way, not only the gig, all funk, sleaze, slow drag, tough swing and sparkling Afro-Jazz, is a wonderful exercise in rhythm, even these speeches by Cannonball move with a smooth, danceable beat. This way they have a penchant of seguing into the tracks, of which Spanish Omelet, an Afro-Cuban ‘suite’, is the longest by far, taking up most of side B. Structure-wise, it may not be so interesting, as it’s low on coherent motives, yet it’s the expressive force that somehow makes five parts a whole, from the lilting melancholy of Nat Adderley’s flamenco-ish Umbakwen, the singing, bended notes of bassist Walter Booker’s a capella Soli Tomba, Joe Zawinul’s hard modal funk of Oiga to the uplifting swingbop of Cannonball’s showstopper Marabi. Spanish Omelet is home cookin’, lively chatter in Erotic City, the brooding presence of hard-boiled Romeo, who stands on the corner, unfazed, bleeding from his elbow… It’s this kind of soul fusion (Adderley would delve deeper into bonafide fusion with 1971’s The Black Messiah and 1974’s Pyramid) that reduces the languid Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, recorded a couple of months before Country Preacher, to background music for spliff smokers.

Good news. The rest is just as sizzling. Jammin’ on one chord has seldom been brought to the fore so successfully as during Nat Adderley’s Hummin’. A slow groove built up by very heavy percussion and bass, Nat Adderley plays with the sureness of a customer who ends a bar row and subsequently has couples dancing with his tipsy singsong, spitting, coughing, growling, while Cannonball, on soprano, is like a fellow working the cottage doors with sandpaper, sweat on his back and brows, a couple of hours away from a refreshing bottle of beer. Oh Baby finds Nat Adderley in the limelight again, takin’ care of business singing the blues with a lurid sense of self-mockery.

Zawinul’s Country Preacher, a slow soul tune, is an exercise in tension and release, and the audience goes berserk, not unlike the responses Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Sam & Dave, Ike & Tina or Aretha Franklin brought about. That’s the piece of land these fellows had staked out for themselves in jazz country. Country Preacher: Live At Operation Breadbasket is expressive, eloquent soul power. It’s pleasantly un-programmatic, possesses a let’s play in the sunshine-ish innocence, yet it’s solid as a rock. It doesn’t come any sleazier and real. A serious party.

Serious Fun

PETER GUIDI – Flutist, saxophonist, teacher and bandleader Peter Guidi sadly passed away on April 17. Besides being a regular performer on the European circuit, Guidi has been a driving force in the Dutch landscape as head of the jazz department of the Amsterdamse Muziekschool and bandleader of numerous prizewinning youth orchestras such as Jazzmania Big Band. Many of the children that Guidi teached have gone on to become accomplished professional musicians. And, lest we forget, young talents that have opted for a civilian career instead of jazz music have experienced unforgettable life lessons from the passionate, firm but fair Scottish-Italian resident of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Strikingly, ex-pupils always speak with a lot of admiration and fondness of their former mentor.

I met with Peter for our interview last June. Guidi was a connoisseur of jazz history and a zealous fan of hard bop, which for him was a fundamental force in jazz: accessible, bluesy but clever, the one genre that possesses the capacity to capture audiences, lure beginners into the jazz realm and satisfy talented young lions. Guidi was enthusiastic, generous, energetic and only deafening church bells would’ve been able to stop the flow of uplifting jazz talk. Guidi’s motto was: jazz, like life, is fun, but serious fun. I enclosed the interview here.

The Dutch National Jazz Archive interviewed Peter Guidi for its lovely, enlightening series of interviews Jazzhelden. Dutch language speakers only. See here.

Last week it was communicated that Guidi was seriously ill. The following day, a large group of students and ex-students performed in front of Guidi’s apartment in Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighborhood. See the reportage of the touching event on AT5 here.

Peter Guidi was 68 years old.