Naturally!: NAT ADDERLEY Quartets
SIDE 1: Nat Adderley (cnt) Joe Zawinul (p) Sam Jones (b) Louis Hayes (drs)
New York City; June 20, 1961
SIDE 2: Nat Adderley (cnt) Wynton Kelly (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
New York City; July 19, 1961
Naturally (5:02) (Nat Adderley)
Seventh Son (Joe Zawinul)
Love Letters (4:12) (Heyman-Young)
This Man’s Dream (5:23) (Specs Wright)
Chloe (5:45) (Kahn-Moret)
Images (4:32) (Sonny Red)
Oleo (3:23) (Sonny Rollins)
Scotch and Water (4:25) (Joe Zawinul)
In these days of so many pretentiously “important” albums, it is a rare pleasure to find one that obviously was recorded to prove nothing other than that the musicians involved play a very high quality of jazz.
This is NAT ADDERLEY’s first quartet record. He has led his own recording groups before, of course, several times, but never in as unadorned a fashion as this. One previous set, for instance, featured a saxophone choir; another, various brass, and a third the deliverately unusual front line of cornet, cello, and guitar. In a field in which many young musicians make their debuts as the only horn on a recording, often before there is much justification for it, it is unusual that a musician as well-known and respected as Nat Adderley should have waited this long.
A quartet record is certainly not the most difficult feat in the world to pull off – these men, as it happens, make it seem like the easiest thing in the world – but it does require confidence as well as ability, and it speaks well for Adderley that, long having had the ability, he should have waited until he had the confidence and felt he was ready.
It would be presumptuous of me to assume that his full-time position in his brother’s extraordinarily successful quintet has anything to do with it, but the fact remains that, for a time, Nat’s own abilities were somewhat overshadowed by the shouts about cannonball being “the new Bird” (a designation which Cannonball probably liked no better than anyone else). But the time is long since past when he was anyone’s “Little Brother” (a pseudonym he once employed), and if this record proves anything at all, perhaps it proves that.
Although Nat pays cornet, there is so little difference in his approach fro that of a trumpet player that it makes most sense to consider him one. The critics, often overly inclined to hair-splitting, gave him his Down Beat New Star award on trumpet, and Nat accepted it, which I will take as my justification. He is one of the few lyrical players on his instrument around today, and much less inclined towards flash than most of them. At the same time, many of the numbers most requested by the Adderley band’s audiences don’t afford too much room for lyricism, and he seems to have taken the present occasion as his particular opportunity to display that facet.
On his first quartet record (if I continue in this vein, I am likely to give the impression that for one horn to sustain forty minutes is equivalent to scaling the Matterhorn), he has certainly not left himself unprotected. Side one is, in effect, by the Cannonball Addelrey Quintet minus One. One of the members is new, the Viennese pianist Joe Zawinul, recently recruited from the quintet led by Harry Edison. Bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes are founding members, and so much has been written about them that repetition seems unnecessary. One remark made about Jones, though, by Orrin Keepnwes, who supervised these sessions, says so much about the regard in which he is held that it ought to appear in print: “Everyone should get the chance to record with him at least once.”
Nor has Nat, on this side, left himself unprotected in the matter of material. It is unfortunate that the word “original” has come into currency as the standard designation for the often hastily-sketched re-workings of familiar chord sequences which musicians bring to record dates. “Derivatives” would, I think, be a better word, in most cases. But not in this one. It is rare enough to find and “original” that is at all exceptional on a record; to find two in a row, as one can do, I think, on the first two tracks of this set, hardly ever happens. The first is Naturally (which was not named by its rather retiring composer). It is a delightful tune with many harmonic possibilities (as Sam Jones undoubtedly discovered when he chose to accompany the first sixteen bars all on one note), and is perhaps most charming during the ascending run that threatens to become Swanee. The second, Joe Zawinul’s Seventh Son (which may be remembered under an earlier incarnation on a Yusef Lateef LP, when it was called by the descriptive, but not especially provocative, title of Lateef Minor Seventh) also owes much to Jones’ choice of bass notes. The ballad, a full dose of Adderley lyricism, is the seldom-done Love Letters. The closest one gets to funk, is the currently accepted sense (and this is a Rollins brand of funk) is the side’s closer, Specs Wright’s This Man’s Dream.
The beginning of these remarks mentioned that this album was not setting out to prove anything. One thing it would be unable to prove, no matter how hard it tried, is the axiomatic dictum that a working group plays together better than a pick-up band, no matter how all-star that pick-up band may be. It is not quite a pick-up band, however, for among them, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones span six years of Miles Davis rhythm sections (Jones actually goes back to 1952). The three have never worked together with Davis, but Paul Chambers, the oldest regular inhabitant, has played with both Kelly and Jones for Miles. At any rate, whether the participants be these men, or whether they include Bill Evans, Red Garland, or Jimmy Cobb, there has bee, for the past several years, a readily identifiable entity, the Miles Davis Rhythm Section, and the general concepts of rhythm, space, and suspension come from him.
If Nat Adderley were consciously looking for a challenge, I don’t know that he could have found a greater one. The no-at-all-extraneous fact that he choose to employ a mute with some frequency, that he has chosen to record a piece introduced by Davis, show that he is willing to meet that challenge head on. The further fact that he operates in a world with an insatiable taste for comparison makes it a rather courageous thing to do.
Chloe, the first track on this side, was already an old joke, with night club comics coming onto the stage, hand to mouth, shouting across invisible swamps, until the magnificent Ellington band of 1940 proved once and for all that it could be good jazz. More than twenty years later, Nat restates the point brilliantly.
Images, by Sonny Red, is by no means the kind of line one night expect from this saxophonist. Built around the opening phrase of an imperishable standard, it makes evocative use of the current trend toward few and suspended chords.
Oleo, by Sonny Rollins, was first recorded in a date with Miles Davis that, due to Rollins, became one of the classic examples of the possibility that record-date “originals” might achieve permanence. This is the challenge I spoke of, and it is interesting and gratifying to hear how Nat meets it.
Scotch an Water, the second of the two pieces by Joe Zawinul (it somehow speaks for Nat’s faith in Joe’s compositional abilities that he uses his tunes even when the composer is not on hand to play them) is another example of the provocative trend toward suspension, this time in the form of a blues with a bridge.
I believe that all the things I have mentioned are to be found in this album, but perhaps more important is that Nat Addelrey has crated a set so instantly pleasurable that it can be listened to again and again without any of them ever coming to mind.
This recording is also available in Stereophonic form on JLP 947S
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and Mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Album designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photographs by STEVE SCHAPIRO
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York