In the late '50s and early '60s, Cannonball Adderley enjoyed his greatest popularity as measured by the commercial success of Riverside releases featuring his own group with his brother Nat on cornet. The sessions were frequently recorded live, included spoken introductions by the ebullient leader, presented some "accessible" tunes, and spotlighted at least one real crowd-pleaser ("This Here," "Sack O' Woe," "Jive Samba," "Mercy Mercy, Mercy"), each later appearing as a hit single.
These sessions are memorable less for the individual solos than the fire of the ensemble, anchored and propelled by one of the best walking bass players in the business, Sam Jones. Returning to these once-popular Adderley brothers releases is to lament the absence of such ensembles on today's scene as well as to be reminded of the relatively hard times the alto giant (and many great players) would encounter in the late '60s/early '70s, when he had trouble booking the group (I recall Cannonball auditioning for clueless Student Activities Directors shopping for next year's campus entertainment). Regardless, any of these Adderley brothers' Riversides represents the so-called "hard bop-soul jazz" idiom at its best and, like the groups of Art Blakey and Horace Silver, should be required listening for the ensemble sound alone.
"In San Francisco" from 1959 not only established the "live action/hit single" formula but is, in its own right, an exemplary session, perhaps superior to the later Adderley brothers' recordings with pianist Victor Feldman or Joe Zawinul and tenorist/flutist Yusef Lateef. The presence of the hard-swinging Bobby Timmons certainly increased the funk and soul appeal of this Adderley edition (though some of the earlier editions of Adderley brothers' groups on Mercury and EmArcy are also worth checking out).
The leader is in especially high spirits, confiding to the crowd that Timmons' "This Here" is known in the community as "Dish heah," and putting it in the context of church music before unleashing the composer on the infectious down-home introduction of the blues/gospel/jazz waltz. The remainder of the program consists of two bristling Adderley originals and three jazz standards that, while still in the repertoires of countless musicians, are played to perfection: Randy Weston's "Hi Fly," Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark," and Monk's "Straight, No Chaser."
If hearing the leader's typically exuberant, lusty playing on this night isn't enough to convince you that 1959 was arguably Adderley's best year (if not for jazz itself), then add to this recording three more from the same year, all featuring the indomitable altoist's juicy tone and joyous preaching: first, a brilliant, albeit neglected or underrated, Riverside quartet date entitled "Cannonball Takes Charge"; 2nd, a Mercury quintet date with Coltrane, "Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago"; finally, a certain sextet date on Columbia (and perennial Amazon best-seller) on which Adderley, along with Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Bill Evans formed the "response" team to bassist Paul Chambers' introductory musical question, "So What?"--a call still sending out shock waves of seismic proportions almost half a century later. (If you don't have Miles' "Kind of Blue," pick it up before "In San Francisco.")