The first release on Real to Reel is a beautiful package. Full colour gatefold sleeve, a sumptuous 28-page booklet with rare photos, essays and interviews with sax man Vincent Herring, Cannonball’s long-time drummer Roy McCurdy and his widow Olga Adderley Chandler and all produced in cooperation with the Adderley Estate.
The music’s not bad either. Over two records we get the highlights of four live dates recorded in ’66 and ’67 by radio DJ, and the original engineer at the Penthouse, Jim Wilke for his broadcasts on KING-FM. He describes the Penthouse broadcasts as, “really old-school radio, live broadcasts on location. People heard great music played right as they listened in their cars and they’d come to the club to catch the second set.”
They might be “old school radio” but the tapes have cleaned up really well, sounding fresh and vibrant and capturing a stellar band at its peak. The quintet features brother Nat on Cornet and one of the very tightest rhythm sections around Roy McCurdy, Joe Zawinul and Victor Gaskin.
The first set begins with a heavy swinging cover of Jimmy Heath’s ‘Big P’ with the band led by Gaskins taut bass line, creating the perfect canvas for the brother’s fierce solos.
Nat and Cannonball keep up the pace on a rollicking version of ‘Sticks’ and ‘Back Home Blues’ and the band cut loose on a very funky take on Zawinul’s ’74 Miles Away’ and a straight-ahead reading of ‘Hippodelphia’.
Elsewhere there are plenty of show and film tunes. I could easily live without the bland but pretty version of Judy Garland’s ‘The Girl Next Door’, but ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story gives the band plenty of time to stretch out and even though you’ve heard it a million times before Joe Zawinul’s soulful playing reminds us all what a fantastic tune ‘Mahna De Carnival’ really is.
The only question that needs to be asked is do we really need another Live Cannonball record? Particularly with ’74 Miles Away’ and ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ both easily available and charting the same band at around the same time. Sadly, I’ve got to say no. The packaging is marvellous and so is a lot of the music but it’s really only one for The Cannonball completists.
Cannonball Adderley Quintet ‘You Got To Pay The Price To Be Free’ (Real Gone Music) 4/5
Cannonball Adderley ‘Complete Live in Tokyo 1963’ 2CD (Solar Records) 5/5
Cannonball Adderley ‘Music You All’ (Real Gone Music/Dusty Groove) 4/5