Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 18: Cannonball Adderley, "This Here"

Artist: Cannonball Adderley
Song: "This Here"
Album: The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco
Year: 1959

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When one looks at the list of the so-called "jazz greats," one of the threads that runs through an overwhelming majority of them is the overall dark or sober sound that they perfected during their career.  While it is not to say that the masters of jazz were all depressed or unhappy people, much of the music they reflected had an emotion to it that gave it such a feeling.  This was often made even more prominent thorough the power with which they played, and yet there were a handful of performers that made it their style to bring a more upbeat, brighter feeling to the world of jazz.  In many ways, it was this style of performance that brought the jazz genre much of its early crossover success, and there were few players who were as influential or important as the great Cannonball Adderley.  Unquestionably one of the true geniuses of the saxophone, both in his compositions as well as his performances, Adderley brought a unique intelligence to his music, and whether he was fronting a group or playing along with other jazz luminaries, his distinctive sound is often easy to spot.  Due to his exceptional level of talent, along with his almost peculiar spirit, it is difficult to single out a specific recording as his finest, and yet one can hear his true brilliance in the handful of laie recordings he released.  Among all of these, there is perhaps no better a defining number for his entire sound than what one can experience on Cannonball Adderley's brilliant 1959 live rendition of "This Here."

Serving as the lead track on the absolutely phenomenal The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco album, it sets the tone for the set that follows, yet in some ways, overshadows the rest of the record.  Cannonball literally gets the mood right in the mood as at the top of the track, he asks for the lights to be lowered, and you can almost feel the audience settle in for what turned out to be a truly legendary performance.  The main musical theme that runs throughout "This Here" is one of the most unique in history, and even if one has never heard it, there is a strange familiarity to the progression.  The songs' composer, Bobby Timmons, quickly gets things underway, and the high energy, truly happy feeling resonates from his piano.  There is a wonderfully funky feel to his performance, as he seems to dance lightly across the keys, building an amazing level of tension with drummer Louis Hayes.  The pair play brilliantly off of one another, giving "This Here" almost a see-saw feeling, and this sense of movement has rarely been achieved anywhere else in jazz history.  Bass legend Sam Jones fills out the back-line for the song, and the way in which these three lock into the groove with one another is truly unprecedented.  Even in their solos, one never loses sight of the connection between the three, and it is this high-spirited swing that enables "This Here" to be just as stunning today as it was more than five decades ago.

Filling out the quintet is of course the Adderley brothers, and their ability to highlight and contrast both one another as well as the rest of the group is what pushes "This Here" to a legendary status.  Neither brother enters the song at the beginning, and one can sense that they were simply waiting to be taken away by the groove.  When they enter in unison, the devastating power and talent of the quintet becomes completely clear, as "This Here" becomes almost mesmerizing.  Seamlessly passing the lead back and forth, it is the Adderley brothers' sense of when to give more power to the notes that gives the composition yet another dimension.  Cannonball's performance on saxophone is a mind-blowing experience, as he pushes the limitations on the instrument in what can be seen as the completely opposite direction of most of his peers.  Finding the beauty in soft notes, as well as working some of the most melodic solos ever recorded, one can easily feel the sheer joy with which he is playing throughout the entire track.  It is this undeniable spirit that surely helped the song to gain a massive following, and it stands as one of the greatest, most accessible songs in jazz history.  Yet one cannot overlook the superb performance that Nat Adderley gives on cornet, as he manages to compliment his brothers' sound perfectly, while he simultaneously cements his own legacy in jazz.  Though there have been a number of great duos throughout the history of jazz, the performance that the Adderley brothers give on "This Here" easily places them near the top of such a list.

Among the many legendary musical combination that have made jazz history, the element they all share is the fact that in every case, each musician leaves plenty of space for his peers to explore the music.  This shared dedication to being unselfish never fails to produce phenomenal results, and few are as impressive as the 1959 live recording of "This Here."  Each of the five musicians are in top form, and the seamless way in which the lead is passed around the group is the epitome of what makes jazz such an amazing musical form.  Furthermore, those who are not on the lead prove that even in the background, a player can be just as essential, and it is the way in which the band is able to keep the deep, soulful groove intact throughout that pushes "This Here" so far beyond its peers.  In many ways, one can point to this performance as the definition, or even the beginning of the "soul jazz" sound, and there is a level of excitement running throughout all of The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco that cannot be found on any other live recording.  As the song progresses, with the mood building more and more, one can hear bits of the audience seeming to get involved, and there is also a clear understanding by the musicians of just how "on" they all are at that moment.  This is the ideal example of how the shared energy between performers and an audience can enhance the song itself, and on so many levels, there is simply no other recording in history that can compare to The Cannonball Adderley Quintet's pivotal 1959 live recording of "This Here."

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