I consider it almost an early Christmas present that Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Legacy Band are in residence tonight and Wednesday at Yoshi’s in Oakland.
There is the anticipation of top-flight jazz, of course, as the veteran drummer fronts an ensemble comprised of Vincent Herring (saxophones), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Rick Germanson (piano) and Dezron Douglas (bass). More to the point, the sets will provide those in attendance the opportunity to revel in or re-evaluate Cannonball Adderley’s canon and legacy.
I have been a Cannonball fan from my earliest days as a jazz listener. The initial attraction, no doubt, was rooted in the saxophonist’s swinging accessibility. Indeed, Adderley’s discography is among jazz’s most accessible, particularly such cross-over Capitol efforts as “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at ‘The Club'” (1966), “Why Am I Treated So Bad!” (1967) and “Country Preacher” (1969).
My appreciation naturally deepened when I explored his earlier albums. The discs with Miles Davis are peerless (“Kind of Blue,” “Milestones,” “1958 Miles” and Adderley’s own “Somethin’ Else”) and the Coltrane collaboration (“Cannonball Adderley Quartet in Chicago”) is a gem. Adderley’s hip and soulful wit and wisdom shine through on the live albums (“In San Francisco,” “At the Lighthouse,” “In New York”).
He also worked extensively with brother Nat; thrived in collaboration with vocalists (Nancy Wilson, Lou Rawls, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington); recorded with fellow giants Milt Jackson, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown; and let’s not forget the vital role Cannonball played in getting Wes Montgomery out of Indianapolis and on to stages worldwide.
For all that, Adderley remains “historically under-rated,” Jazz Police contributing editor Andrea Canter notes.
With a soulful sound born from his Southern gospel roots, Cannonball’s career exploded in the late ‘50s when he joined Miles Davis’ sextet, progressing to his own bands with brother cornetist Nat and pianist Bobby Timmons. His exuberant hard bop resulted in many acclaimed Blue Note and Riverside recordings, but his later, commercial work on Capitol – for better or worse – has been more associated with the soul music movement than serious jazz. As a result, Cannonball Adderley has been relatively underappreciated by most jazz historians. Says his old Riverside producer, Orrin Keepnews, “his work is considered relatively invalid because it’s popular… an awful lot of the soul music nonsense of that period was rightly or wrongly attributed to him and his success… There is continuous evidence of musical intelligence and sensitivity in his work. He is one of the most impressive ballad players. He was never in any danger of being swallowed by that soul stuff.”
It can be argued that Hayes played with Adderley at the peak of his powers. For evidence, give a listen to “In San Francisco,” “Nippon Soul,” “The Sextet,” “Them Dirty Blues,” “At the Lighthouse,” “In New York” and “Paris, 1960.” The two men enjoyed a close relationship professionally and personally, Hayes made clear in an All About Jazz interview.
Question: There were people all over the place. And there were a lot of places to play. That was a golden time, the '50s.
Hayes: Yes, it was a wonderful time. I was doing those things and I stayed with Horace Silver until '59. And (bassist) Sam Jones...we were appearing in Birdland on 52nd Street one of those nights that they had the session night. I forgot what night they used to do it, but every week they would just have guys coming in and just play together. So I was there with Jones; Bobby Timmons, piano, Hank Mobley and Booker Little played trumpet. And Sam asked me and Bobby, he said that Cannonball, who was at the time with Miles, was going to form his group again...this was the second time. He said, "Would you have eyes? Would you think about that? So I thought about it and I had been with Horace for those three years. I switched up and I went with Cannon and Nat. (And) I'm glad I did. That was a really wonderful experience. Going with Cannon and Nat – I mean, it was like a family. Miles used to come and ask me to join his band when I first went with Cannon. I couldn't do it. I wanted to, but I just couldn't do that (to) Cannon, you know.
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