June 7, 2019
Swingin’ in Seattle
Reel to Real RTR CD001
Piling into the aural time machine that is Swingin’ in Seattle you can arrive at a time in 1966/1967 when Jazz still had a claim on being a popular music and nightclubs all over the world flourished presenting the music. At least that’s what you hear on the 71-minute newly issued session recorded live at Seattle’s The Penthouse club.
Centre of the proceedings is alto saxophonist Julian Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975), who at this juncture was as popular as any Jazz player could be without being a superstar. With a major label contract and Jazz hits like “Sack o’Woe”, “Jive Samba” and “African Waltz” behind him, his most recent combo configuration at the time included a group of outstanding players and composers. Besides the unbeatable rhythm team of drummer Roy McCurdy and bassist Victor Gaskin, there was Adderely’s brother, Nat Adderley, whose “Work Song” would make lots of money for himself and Herb Alpert; and pianist Joe Zawinul, whose “Mercy Mercy” would soon make him and Adderley even better known, and who went on to help birth Fusion as the co-leader of Weather Report.
There’s a lot of highly professional, monumental playing throughout, especially when the three front-line players expose their individual variant of contemporary Bop. Plus every track is a foot tapper. This was also a time when the constantly working bands would play week-long engagements at nightclubs and keep the audience happy and attentive with a mixture of originals, Blues, hip tunes from other Jazzers like Jimmy Heath’s “Big P” here; Broadway and Pop standards such as “Somewhere” and the occasional gentle Bossa Nova. For the last, hear how the group expands on “The Morning of the Carnival” adding funk to finesse. On this disc also captured are Adderley’s short introductions and tags, which project the sort of erudite warmth that could drag the most obtuse square into the Jazz orbit.
Still, the reason Swingin’ in Seattle is so outstanding and never less than swinging is also because it’s an artifact of a lost era. The band operates as if the atonal advances then personified by the explorations of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane, one of whose most famous LP, Live in Seattle was recorded in the city in 1965, had never happened. This was a particular affliction for the alto saxophonist, who shows on pieces such as “74 Miles” and “Hippodelphia” that he has the skills to shift his playing into more advanced angles. Yet listen to any of the tracks on this CD and note the skill and sincerity that went into its creation.
However very soon afterwards, as “Mercy Mercy” and other Funk-Jazz compositions propelled this combo and others onto the Rock and R&B charts, sophisticated Jazz rhythms were deemed old fashioned and with Soul-Jazz, Fusion and (yuk!) Smooth Jazz the sound became a commodity to sprinkle onto Pop Music, not a separate art form in itself. Today the set of (now very old) Young Lions never reached the standard of playing the Adderley group accepted as rote, any more than 2019 actors can replicate the distinguishing style of movie performances from the 1950s, no matter how films are remake.
An exceptional souvenir of a bygone era Swingin’ in Seattle can be appreciated for its excellent music. But, more than 50 years later, it’s also a sad reminder of what never can be recreated, or should be.
Track Listing: 1. Jim Wilke Intro 2. Big “P” 3. Spoken Outro 4. Spoken Intro 5. The Girl Next Door 6. Spoken Intro 7. Sticks 8. Spoken Outro 9, Spoken Intro 10. The Morning of the Carnival (Manhã de Carnaval) 11. Spoken Outro 12. Spoken Intro 13. Somewhere 14. Spoken Intro 15. 74 Miles Away 16. Spoken Outro 17. Back Home Blues 18. Hippodelphia 19. Set-Closing Outro
Personnel: Nat Adderley (cornet); Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone); Joe Zawinul (piano); Victor Gaskin (bass) and Roy McCurdy (drums)