The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley by Cannonball Adderley

August 26, 2012

Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975) was one of America’s premier jazz saxophonist’s during his all too short 20 year career. In addition to leading his own groups, he was a noted sideman for many of the leading jazz artists of the day, including Miles Davis, 1957-59. He also worked outside the jazz medium at times with excursions into rock and roll and rhythm & blues territory.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, his music was positive and ebullient. Yet underlying it all was a very soulful style. His sound evolved from the bop school, to Miles Davis modal phase, to the electrified funk stylings of his later career, to the commercial jazz of his signature song, “Mercy Mercy Mercy.”

His music now returns as a part of the ongoing Concord Music Group’s The Very Best Of series that resurrects some of the better tracks by many of the leading lights of American Jazz’s classic era. The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley is an eclectic mix of 10 tracks that spans his career,but eschews his most commercially successful period with Capital Records. As such, it gives a flavor of his music but the jumps from one era to the next only scratch the surface of his sound and style.

The first and oldest track from 1958, “A Little Taste,” finds him playing with such stalwarts as pianist Bill Evans and trumpet player Blue Mitchell. His solo was one of the better excursions of his early career and is a fine introduction to his music.

“This Here” is an 11 minute live track recorded at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, October 20, 1959, with his quintet. He is backed by cornet player Nat Adderley, bassist Sam Jones, pianist Bobby Timmons, and drummer Louis Hayes. His lengthy solos soar over the instrumental foundations as his soulful style looks ahead to his fusions of soul and jazz.

“Know What I Mean” found him in a simpler setting as he and pianist Bill Evans are backed by only a bass and drums. The interplay between Evans and Adderley make you wish the song was longer than its five minutes.

The jump ahead to 1975, the year of his death at age 46, has synthesizer player George Duke on hand, which gave him a far different musician to play off and against. The electric rhythms present a nice example of just how far his sound had evolved and the direction it was headed.

Cannonball Adderley has been gone almost four decades, but his music still sounds vibrant. The power of his playing and the joyful and soulful sounds he could coax from his instrument are always worth a listen. The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley is a nice slice of his music and will leave you wanting more.

Article first published as Music Review: Cannonball Adderley – The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley on Blogcritics.

The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi by Vince Guaraldi

August 24, 2012

Vince Guaraldi is a sometimes forgotten figure in the pantheon of jazz of artists. His music, while sophisticated in places, did not change the course of American music. It was pleasurable, however, as it was very smooth and melodic, allowing the listener to relax. Sometimes that is enough. He is probably best remembered for his music written for the Peanuts television specials, which are still being broadcast, or possibly for his Grammy award-winning crossover hit, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.”

The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi is different from many of the other releases in Concord Music Group’s Very Best Of jazz series in that it spans his career rather than just a specific period of time.

Just about every child and many parents have watched at least a part of A Charlie Brown Christmas and other Peanuts programs. “The Charlie Brown Theme” and “Linus and Lucy” are immediately recognizable to several generations of music listeners although they may not have realized they were listening to jazz at the time. Two other tracks are taken from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even I remember poor Charlie Brown giving directions for the gang’s Christmas play, while Lucy and the rest grooved to the sounds of “Christmas is Coming.” “Christmas Time Is Here” fit well into the theme of the show but also stands on its own as it is an extended and sprawling piece that allows Guaraldi to stretch and improvise.

His classic track will always be “Cast Your Fate To The Wind.” He was always more melodic than many of his contemporaries, which at the time took him outside the traditional or hard jazz approach. Still, his light touch and ability to create intricate arrangements are very apparent on his best creation.

He incorporated a variety of Latin rhythms and sounds into many of his releases. “Manha De Carnaval,” “Django,” and “Outra Vez” may be simple in some ways but his subtle excursions south of the border are worth exploring.

The cream of the album is his own composition, “Treat Street,” complete with timbales, congas, and a string quartet. Heavy orchestration and a driving rhythm set the foundation for his simple keyboard lines.

Vince Guaraldi’s music is well known even if his name is not. This new compilation is a fine introduction both to the man and the music.

Article first published as Music Review: Vince Guaraldi – The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi on Blogcritics.