Milt Jackson

Milt Jackson Plenty, Plenty Soul (Atlantic 1957)

At the time of Milt Jackson’ recording of Plenty, Plenty Soul, the group that he was part of, The Modern Jazz Quartet, was a major force in the jazz world. It had recorded their blend of modern jazz and chamber music on albums as Concorde, Fontessa and Django, which included the famous title track. With more time on his hands for the blues away from MJQ, Plenty, Plenty Soul showcases a freewheelin’ Milt Jackson.

Milt Jackson

Personnel

Milt Jackson (vibes), Joe Newman (trumpet), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone A1-A3), (Cannonball Adderley credited as Ronnie Peters, alto A1-A3), Frank Foster (tenor saxophone A1-A3), Lucky Thompson (tenor saxophone B1-B4), Sahib Shehab (baritone saxophone A1-A3), Horace Silver (piano), Percy Heath (bass A1-A3), Oscar Pettiford (bass B1-B4), Art Blakey (drums A1-A3), Connie Kay (drums B1-B4)

Recorded

on January 5 & 7, 1975 at Atlantic Studio in New York City

Released

as SD 1269 in 1957

Track listing

Side A:
Plenty, Plenty Soul
Boogity Boogity
Heartstrings
Side B:
Sermonette
The Spirit-Feel
Ignunt Oil
Blues At Twilight


Side A has the upper hand. The opener and title track is a long blues that includes an abundance of funky and virtuoso Milt Jackson phrases. The rhythym section of Art Blakey, Horace Silver (Silver had parted ways with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers half a year prior to this session) and Milt Jackson’s colleague form the MJQ, bassist Percy Heath, is especially exciting on the joyful Boogity Boogity. Jackson is stimulated considerably by Blakey’s amalgam of press rolls, tom attacks and nifty use of the snare drum’s metal ring. Ending side A, Jackson’s radiant sound and lyrical twists and turns are at the core of the ballad Heartstrings.

The uplifting arrangements of the first three tracks are by Quincy Jones. The solo’s by Jackson’s sidemen are excellent. Part of the all-star cast is altoist Cannonball Adderley, (credited as ‘Ronnie Peters’ for legal reasons) whose solo on Boogity Boogity is one of the album’s highlights.

In comparison to this session, the one that culminated in side B is less spiritedlacks. Milt Jackson’s other colleague from the MJQ, drummer Connie Kay, is much less energetic than Art Blakey. It’s why tunes like Nat Adderley’s pretty, infectious melody Sermonette, don’t really take off. Less exceptional than side A, side B nevertheless presents a couple of highlights. Firstly, the abundant church feeling Milt Jackson brings to his performances, especially in The Spirit Feel, makes the heart skip a beat. Secondly, Jackson demonstrates both outstanding technique (utilising the four mallet-approach) and a feeling for the blues in the slow blues Blues At Twilight. Finally, tenorist Lucky Thompson’s round tone and articulate style are responsible for the session’s merry atmosphere.

In my opinion, both sides of Milt Jackson – the ‘blowing’ kind and the MJQ-kind – deserve equal attention. The downgrading of John Lewis has been a favourite sport of Milt Jackson fans. Reportedly, Jackson hated his guts and in spite of being fed up with the quartet periodically, stayed in it for the money. Yet, Jackson fans tend to forget that Lewis’s writing and arranging skills and understated (quietly swinging) piano backing brought masterful play out of Jackson.

Obviously, we should be very glad that Milt Jackson also kept recording in his own right. As his second solo foray on Atlantic using a top-notch all-star cast, Plenty, Plenty Soul foreshadowed other exciting collaborations with Ray Charles (Soul Brothers, Soul Meeting), Coleman Hawkins (Bean Bags) and John Coltrane. (Bags & Trane)

Cannonball Adderley - Inside Straight

Cannonball Adderley Inside Straight (Fantasy 1973)

Inside Straight, the last great album by Cannonball Adderley, who passed away in 1975, is a live-in-the-studio recording, a trend not invented by Adderley and producer David Axelrod as such, but definitely popularised through their earlier albums. It’s a superior jazzfunk date by an artist who stays true to himself while being in sync with contemporary developments at the same time.

Cannonball Adderley - Inside Straight

Personnel

Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Nat Adderley (cornet), Hal Galper (electric piano), Walter Booker (bass), Roy McCurdy (drums), King Ericsson (percussion)

Recorded

on June 4, 1973 at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California

Released

as FT 517 in 1973

Track listing

Side A:
Introduction
Inside Straight
Saudade
Inner Journey
Side B:
Snake In The Grass
Five Of A Kind
Second Son
The End


1963’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was a superb in-house session, (the cover erronously credited ‘The Club’) yet it’s 1960’s smash hit The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco (recorded at The Jazz Workshop) that is generally credited with influencing the road live jazz production would travel. The method: put a small, appreciative (mainly standing room only-) crowd in a cozy place containing attractive acoustics and production circumstances, and serve them enough libations to feel comfortable. (or slightly off-centre)

An added bonus of In San Francisco was the deadpan and eloquent manner in which Cannonball Adderley talked the audience through the show. It was an idea originally concocted by Adderley and producer Orrin Keepnews of Riverside.

In 1973, Adderley re-united with Keepnews, then head of the jazz department of Fantasy Records. And a Cannonball introductory talk is present on Inside Straight. The quintet then dives into the title track. Now that’s how you open a live album! A funkblues boogie connected through a hot line to the quintet’s seminal recording at a church meeting, Country Preacher of 1970, including a kick-ass bridge, an irresistable bass pattern locking thumbs with a solid drum groove, cocksure soulful phrases by Cannonball and, last but not least, a growling trumpet statement by Nat Adderley that is part deadpan humour, part boisterous mating call, Inside Straight is destined to sweep you out of your seat and prompt you to grab whoever’s around for a decidedly funky ritual dance.

Both Saudade and Inner Journey are groovy cuts with a Latin flavour and contain fluid Cannonball solo’s; Nat Adderley flies through Saudade in lyrical mode, resembling Chet Baker, albeit a funkified one. The atmosphere of these tunes, as of the whole album, is warm and beguiling, courtesy also of Hal Galper’s layers of electric piano sound and probing phrases. ‘Hot’ is an adjective most appropriate for Five Of A Kind, which moves from a slow build-up to a fast-paced bebop demonstration. It’s not groundbreaking, it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s rock solid.

Snake In The Grass is a slow deep funk cut that, containing more than proficient improvisation, would make George Clinton’s group sweat. Combining such seductive repertoire with keen musical experience and intellect, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet holds in near-perfect suspension the need to entertain and the search for musical truth.

Which, come to think of it, is more or less exemplary for the sum total of Cannonball Adderley’s recorded output.

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The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Them Dirty Blues (Riverside 1960)

As a soloist in the Parker tradition, Cannonball Adderley took New York by storm in 1955, releasing solid albums for various labels in the following years. After a succesful stint of fourteen months with Miles Davis, contributing to quintessential albums such as Milestones and Kind Of Blue, at the end of 1959 Julian “Cannonball” Adderley really had got his act together band-wise. Brother Nat rejoined Cannonball after a variety of jobs, (J.J. Johnson, Woody Herman) landing safely in front of the red hot rhythm section of drummer Louis Hayes and bassist Sam Jones. The fruits of this renewed Adderley labor – The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco and Them Dirty Blues – created quite a buzz through a succesful marriage between bebop and the soulful, funky side of jazz.

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Personnel

Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Nat Adderley (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano A2, A4, B2), Barry Harris (piano A1, A3, B1, B3), Sam Jones (bass), Louis Hayes (drums)

Recorded

on February 1, 1960 at Reeves Sound Studio, NYC and March 29 at Ter-Mar Recording Studio, Chicago

Released

as RLP 1170 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Work Song
Dat Dere
Easy Living
Del Sasser
Side B:
Jeannine
Soon
Them Dirty Blues


The title track is indeed a low down and dirty blues, yet in spite of its juke joint charisma, as far as excitement is concerned stays a mile or so behind the three well-known classic cuts of the album, Work Song, Dat Dere and Duke Pearson’s Jeannine. Nat Adderley’s Work Song is one of the modern jazz gems. It still sounds fresh and fiery after all these years and through its imaginative theme and on-target breaks keeps reminding us of the Southern chain gang and the way it used song for dearly needed discipline and comfort.

Nat Adderley recorded his signature tune just a couple of weeks earlier, on January 27, 1960, on his Riverside album Work Song. It’s an unusual take including pizzicato cello and although Hayes and pianist Bobby Timmons are also present, as well as master guitar player Wes Montgomery, it lacks the fire and urgency of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s effort.

Bobby Timmons’ Dat Dere, a gospel-tinged beauty, has an interesting bridge after the stand-out solo’s of the brothers Adderley and Timmons, consisting of a few jumpin’ choruses and a return to the sassy melody via a variation on that melody; simultaneously soulful and intelligent. During the recording of Them Dirty Blues, Timmons returned to Art Blakey’s group. They recorded a typically swinging and robust Dat Dere for the album The Big Beat a couple of months later in 1960. And Bobby Timmons’ trio take on his first album as a leader, This Here Is Bobby Timmons, recorded in the time span between Adderley’s en Blakey’s sessions, conceivably is injected with even a bigger shot of gospel feeling.

Timmons’ replacement in Adderley’s group, Barry Harris, brings his bag of trademark, Bud Powell-influenced bop piano playing. He’s excellent. Timmons’ style, though, adds more colour to the group.

The swinging Jeannine by Duke Pearson possesses a relentless drive. Cannonball wraps original phrases around the theme and the build-up of his solo is immaculate. Nat Adderley plays fluently and ends his turn on a note of exuberant joy. Louis Hayes and Sam Jones are responsible for a big part for the smoothly running train that is Jeannine. Three years of experience for Hayes as drummer in Horace Silver’s outfit indelibly left its mark. Sam Jones shows that he is one of the foremost executioners of the walking bass. Jeannine ends on a bass chorus, which is only appropriate, bearing in mind Sam Jones’ down-home, solid bass sound.

Jones also contributes a composition. The melody of Del Sasser sounds like one of those instantly recognizable Gerry Mulligan tunes, but inserted with much heavier swing.

Amidst upheaval in the jazz world at the end of 1959 – Ornette Coleman and his melodic and harmonic inventions inspiring unheard of controversy, and as the title of his third release somewhat hyperbolically stated, shaping the jazz to come, John Coltrane breaking serious ground with landmark recording Giant Steps – the joyful, funky and smart Them Dirty Blues nestled in the hearts and minds of audiences and musicians, firmly reminding them of the roots of jazz. Arguably, this particular (brand-new brand of funky jazz from The Cannonball Adderley Quintet laid down an evenly valid groundwork for the future.