At the Lighthouse

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet

album cover

An Overdose of Smiling Riffs

Some jazz musicians feed on torment. Julian "Cannonball" Adderley (1928–1975) specialized in its opposite—a bubbly, endlessly effusive, happy jazz. Throughout his career, from an early stint in Miles Davis's band to his own hard-grooving "soul-jazz" combos of the '60s, the alto saxophonist spread sunshine wherever he went. The tune could be demanding bebop, or a sorrowful blues, but when Cannonball rolled in, the storm clouds dissolved. His collaboration with singer Nancy Wilson stands as one of the breeziest jazz vocal documents of all time. His take on bossa nova, in collaboration with Sergio Mendes on Cannonball's Bossa Nova, is equally upbeat.

Then there's this consistently great live album, which overflows with zesty, smiling riffs. Listen for just a few minutes, and you can't miss the secret of the Adderley group: These guys know how much fun jazz can be, and they charge through a series of up-tempo toe-tappers as though determined to spread that joy around.

At least part of the exuberance originates with Adderley's tone, which many regard as the "quintessential" sound of the alto saxophone. It's bright and lively, tart, and at the same time thoroughly warm. There's puppy-dog playfulness in it; at times gregarious laughter comes tumbling between the lines. When, on the opening jump "Sack o' Woe," Adderley dishes out a blue moan, he slips and slides around, creating unbroken curves of deliciously slurred pitches. Later, on a blazing fast "Our Delight," he sounds like he's bursting at the seams, alive with energy he can barely handle.

Recorded in 1960, At the Lighthouse catches Adderley's group—featuring his brother Nat on cornet, Victor Feldman on piano, and the perpetually underesteemed rhythm team of Sam Jones (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums)—looking back at the spangly side of hard bop, and forward to the grittier rhythms that would become the group's signature later in the decade. Several pieces fall somewhere between those extremes, and of them, Feldman's surging "Azule Serape" is the best. It moves through several different grooves, and, like all of Adderley's greatest work, masks its formidable structural challenges beneath a vivacious, perpetually untroubled good-time veneer.

Genre: Jazz
Released: 1960, Riverside (Reissued 2001, Blue Note)
Key Tracks: "Sack o' Woe," "Azule Serape," "Our Delight," "What Is This Thing Called Love?," "Big P"
Catalog Choice: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!; Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson; Cannonball's Bossa Nova
Next Stop: Grant Green: Solid
After That: Elvin Jones: Live at the Lighthouse
Book Page: 10

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#1 from Mike Day, San Francisco - 09/19/2008 8:05

Heard about the list on KFOG, love what I’ve seen so far.  I agree with the vast majority of your rock, classical and jazz selections.  I am puzzled about the omission of Dave Brubeck from the jazz list, when Take Five was probably the song most responsible for introducing a broader audience to jazz during the last half of the 20th Century - IMHO.  But this is a great piece of scholarship and I will urge my music loving sons to sample from it widely. Thanks.  Mike

#2 from herb spark, san diego - 05/09/2010 12:05

Hey, Mike Day,
Check all the Lighthouse Allstars albums—great west coast jazz with all the great players.  Also, check out all the Cal Tjader LPs (maybe in the Lighthouse series). (I “pray” that all the above are now available on cd
Also, check out the Dave Brubeck Octet (only one LP)—one side is all strictly Bach fugal framework; i think the other side is a kind of history of jazz styles.  The cover art art is also memorable. The LP is in my closet w/ all the other great stuff, awaiting transfer to the hard drive.  A couple of other all time greats that may have escaped your notice:  Max Roach, Jazz in 3/4 Time, Thelonious Monk solo piano (at Carnegie Hall?) , esp.  Lulu’s Back in Town, and Astor Piazzolla, Tango: Zero Hour.  If you buy Astor and don’t dig it, I’ll give you 3x what U paid; he’s that good.  If U escaped encountering these artists/albums until now, but find U dig ‘em, I’d be happy to recommend other stuff.

#3 from John Johnson, Alberta - 07/03/2010 2:05

Does anyone know any of Miles Davis’ more Kind of Blue like albums, those more structured and soft as opposed to improvised and very scattered like Bitches Brew’

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