The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Country Preacher (1970)

Sunday Jazz: The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, “Walk Tall”

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Country Preacher (1970)

One of the things I’ve always loved about Cannonball Adderley’s approach to jazz is how he seamlessly infused elements of R&B and (later) soul into his arrangements. While he could play straight hard bop with the best of them, I think his best output comes from his willingness to expand and experiment. And so this week I want to highlight a song from Cannonball’s his first album of the 1970s, Country Preacher (Capitol Records SKAO-404, 1970). It was recorded live in Chicago in October 1969.

After a fiery introduction by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Adderley’s quintet — Cannonball on alto sax, Nat Adderley on cornet, Joe Zawinul on piano, Walter Booker on bass, and Roy McCurdy on drums — busts out a greasy funk-inspired groove on “Walk Tall.” This brilliant mix of late ’60s funk and jazz is not unlike the music of the Jazz Crusaders or Ray Bryant from the same period. It’s both highly stimulating and accessible. I see songs like this being at the top of the charts in a world where jazz remained ascendant and rock never really grabbed America’s imagination.

The album, incidentally, is subtitled “Live” at Operation Breadbasket. Operation Breadbasket was founded as a department of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1962 as an organization dedicated to improving the economic conditions of black communities across the U.S. Rev. Jackson was chosen to be head of the Chicago chapter in 1966.

Listen to “Walk Tall” (Joe Zawinul/Esther Marrow/James Rein) [powerpress url=” Adderley – Walk Tall (feat. Jesse Jackson).mp3″]

You can listen to this and many of the songs featured on Sunday Jazz by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist in Spotify or Rdio.)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1954

Sunday Jazz: Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Blue Rondo à la Turk”

This piece originally ran in June 2012. I’m running it again as a very small tribute to the late Dave Brubeck, who passed away on Wednesday, December 5 at age 91.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1954

The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1954

I’m in the midst of a fairly comprehensive attempt at helping newcomers to jazz build a good music collection. I’ll offer a spoiler here and say that one of the albums on the list is the landmark 1959 Dave Brubeck Quartet record, Time Out.

Time Out was one of the albums that really drew me into jazz when I was in the early days of my exploration, and for good reason. It’s both cerebral and swingin’, and accessible without compromising artistic integrity one bit.

The Paul Desmond composition “Take Five” is probably the group’s most-known song, but I’ve always been partial to the opening cut — Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk.” The way it alternates between 9/8 and 4/4 is inspired, and appealed to the progressive rock fan in me.

Here’s a clip of the classic quartet — Brubeck on piano, Desmond on alto sax, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums — performing the song on “The Lively Ones,” broadcast date July 25, 1962. Dig the magic carpet green-screen effect of the band flying over a Los Angeles freeway.

(Spotify users — you can listen to this and many of the songs featured on Sunday Jazz by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

Sunday Jazz: Fantastic New Music from Negroni’s Trio — On the Way

Negroni's Trio - On the WayOne of the downsides to so much good music coming out this year is that I don’t get nearly enough time to enjoy or write about everything I want. And so I’ve been remiss in mentioning one of the many great new albums from this year — On the Way by Negroni’s Trio.

I very recently discovered the trio — Puerto Rican-born pianist José Negroni and his son Nomar on drums, as well as a rotating bassist — through the magic of the internet and they are my favorite current jazz act. In many ways they’ve supplanted The Bad Plus as my go-to group for adventurous, muscular jazz. If you really want to get technical, you can consider their music Latin jazz, but that’s just a label. What it is is stirring, melodic, daring music that any music fan can appreciate.

On the Way — the group’s seventh album — was recorded live at the Miami-Dade Kendall Campus Theater in Miami, Florida. That means you get the spark and intimacy of a top-notch live jazz show, but it’s so flawlessly executed you’d swear it was recorded in the studio.

Joining the father-and-son Negroni team is Josh Allen on bass, as well as saxophonist Ed Calle (four tracks) and violinist Federico Britos (one track). For your listening enjoyment I’ve updated my Sunday Jazz on GFS Spotify playlist with two of the record’s most potent tracks — “On the Way” and “Blue Forest.” But really, all 10 songs are worth your time.

On the Way is out now on AA Records & Entertainment. You can visit Negroni’s Trio on their website or follow them on Twitter at @NegronisTrio.

Even More Halloween Jazz for a Spooky, Swingin’ Time!

The Witch's Dance Vintage Halloween Card

I offered up a selection of four tracks for a Halloween jazz playlist last year, and I’m back for more this year. These tunes are perfect for setting a spooky, fun mood — whether you’re setting out for trick or treat or holding a classy (and classic) retro Halloween party of your own! Each of these selections has a YouTube video that’s up for now, and I’ve also embedded a Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post. Speaking of which…

(Spotify users — you can listen to these and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

Kay Starr — “The Headless Horseman”

Artie Shaw — “Nightmare”

The Casa Loma Orchestra — “The House Is Haunted”

The Boswell Sisters — “Heebie Jeebies”

Henry Hall and his Orchestra (vocals by Val Rosing) — “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Bogeyman”

Todd Rollins & His Orchestra with Chick Bullock — “The Boogie Man”

PolCat album cover

Sunday Jazz: Let’s Talk About the PolCat Album

PolCat album coverI see at least half a dozen PR emails a day concerning albums and projects I have little interest in. So it figures that I missed the February release of PolCat, the debut album from a project featuring Chris Poland, one of my all-time favorite guitarists.

The name, I’m certain, comes from Poland and tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano, who make up half of this astoundingly talented quartet.

How I stumbled upon this album is not important — I’m just glad I did. It’s one of the freshest, most enjoyable releases of any genre I’ve heard this year, and hopefully points the way to more output from this group.

I haven’t heard much of anything from Catalano prior to this album, but his sax playing is agile and tuneful. Likewise, the rhythm section of bassist Sean O’Bryan Smith and drummer Jim Gifford is tight and propulsive. They clearly have chops (witness Smith’s sick grooving on “Pharoh” as an example), but when necessary they lay down a rock-solid foundation for Poland and Catalano to do their thing.

But the main reason I wanted to hear PolCat was Chris Poland. Having mostly heard Poland’s solo work and his work with Megadeth, I was curious to hear how he would sound in a jazzier outfit. Turns out he sounds fantastic. His playing is in turns delicate and ambient (reminding me a bit of Andy Summers, another of my favorites) and white-hot. He shreds like nobody’s business on tracks like “Forget About It” and “Mighty Burner,” which I’ve added to my Sunday Jazz playlist (linked below). On cuts like “Rain” and “Glass House” he alternates between placid and frenetic with ridiculous ease.

Serious jazz fans will appreciate the expert interplay and top-notch improvisation on PolCat, while devoted metalheads should love hearing one of the great guitarists of the genre do his thing. The bottom line is that PolCat has a little something for everyone, and is not to be missed. I don’t have any song samples for you, but check out this live rendition of “Mighty Burner” from the group’s debut show at the Alvas Showroom in San Pedro, CA.

PolCat is out now on Ashro Records, and can be purchased from iTunes (no Amazon yet).

Track listing

  1. “Forget About It”
  2. “God Made It Beautiful”
  3. “Microphone Check (feat. Malcolm-Jamal Warner)”
  4. “Mighty Burner”
  5. “Rain”
  6. “Glass House”
  7. “Sona”
  8. “Pharoh”
  9. “NS Factor”
  10. “Americana”

(Spotify users — you can listen to selections from PolCat and many of the songs featured on Sunday Jazz by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

A Child's Introduction to Jazz, Narrated by Cannonball Adderley

A Child’s Introduction to Jazz, Narrated by Cannonball Adderley

A Child's Introduction to Jazz, Narrated by Cannonball AdderleySchool is almost out for the summer for a lot of kids in the U.S., but they can still learn! And what better topic to learn about than jazz? That’s what Julian “Cannonball” Adderley must’ve thought, as he narrated a 1961 album called A Child’s Introduction to Jazz. It was released on Riverside Records (RLP 1435) as part of their “Wonderland” series, designed to teach kids about a variety of topics in an entertaining way.

Throughout, Adderley narrates the history of jazz and talks about the genre’s roots in work songs, blues, and ragtime, and brings the listener through Dixieland, Swing, and Bebop. He also explains the instrumental makeup and musical structure of jazz.

Numerous songs and clips back up his lessons, which makes the whole experience rather rich and informative. Some of the legendary jazz artists featured on this record are Scott Joplin, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Fats Waller, Ma Rainey, Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery, Art Blakey, Bix Beiderbecke, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Woody Herman, Coleman Hawkins, and John Coltrane.

This is a fascinating record and I highly recommend listening to the whole thing at least once.

(Spotify users — you can listen to many of the songs featured on Sunday Jazz by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

Sunday Jazz: Jay McShann & His Orchestra, “Swingmatism”

Sunday Jazz at The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

I’ll cop to not being a huge fan of the Swing Era of jazz. I certainly appreciate it for its rich history and cultural importance, but the jazz I love the most starts with the Bebop era in the mid-1940s. Still, one of my favorite tunes ever is “Swingmatism” by Jay McShann & His Orchestra, particularly the rendition I’m presenting today.

Now according to the video, this cut of “Swingmatism” was recorded with Charlie Parker on alto saxophone. I’m not enough of a historian to know any better, but it matters little. It absolutely sizzles and swings like few compositions from the era. So enjoy!

(Spotify users — you can listen to this and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

"Three Little Bops" from Looney Tunes, 1957

Sunday Jazz: Shorty Rogers, Stan Freberg, and “Three Little Bops”

"Three Little Bops" from Looney Tunes, 1957

I’d like to deviate from the usual Sunday Jazz fare to pay small tribute to one of my favorite cartoons of all time. “Three Little Bops” is one of the great entries in the Looney Tunes catalog, and came out in 1957 — a time when Beat culture was very much in the American consciousness. Not only is it funny, it swings! Dig it, man:

I could watch that all day. So anyway, not much is absolutely confirmed about the men behind “Three Little Bops.” Stan Freberg and Shorty Rogers are credited with vocals and music, respectively, but that’s about it. Some enterprising folks have done a lot of digging to uncover the rest of the musicians, and have come up with this lineup:

  • Vocals — Stan Freberg (credited on the short)
  • Saxophone — Pepper Adams (or possibly Jimmy Giuffre)
  • Trumpet/flugelhorn — Shorty Rogers (credited on the short)
  • Piano — Pete Jolly
  • Guitar — Barney Kessel
  • Bass — Red Callender (or possibly Red Mitchell)
  • Drums — Stan Levey (or possibly Shelly Manne)

People found this post by searching for:

    "three little bops lyrics", "the three little bops lyrics"
Andy Summers, The Last Dance of Mr. X (1997)

Sunday Jazz: Andy Summers, “The Three Marias”

Andy Summers, The Last Dance of Mr. X (1997)While Sting got all the attention (and record sales) after the Police broke up in the mid-1980s, I’ve always found guitarist Andy Summers’ solo material to be more consistently satisfying. And the one album of his I love more than any other is 1997’s The Last Dance of Mr. X. Summers is backed by a crack unit including Tony Levin on bass and Gregg Bissonette on drums. The trio crackles with energy on “The Three Marias,” the second track on the album. Enjoy!

(listen to “The Three Marias” by Andy Summers)

And because I know you’re curious, here’s a live performance of “The Three Marias” by Wayne Shorter, recorded in 1995. The original version can be found on his 1985 solo LP, Atlantis.

(Spotify users — you can listen to these and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)