The Newport Jazz Festival, July 5, 1957.
At Newport is a potent study in contrasts. Presented here are back-to-back sets, all previously unreleased, by the respective quintets at the 1957 event. Adderley’s band emits the Southern funk of the Delta, the church, and the roadhouse, testifying the cleansing fire of the blues. Shearing, on the other hand, exudes a polished British urbanity as heard in "the Shearing Sound," with its combination of high end vibes, low end guitar, and the piano weaving in and out of the middle.
Two years after the death of Charlie Parker, the Adderley performance is a searing culmination of the previous 15 innovative years in jazz. The opener, JJ Johnson’s "Wee Dot" explodes as if shot from a howitzer, covering the landscape with a shower of bebop. The band is evenly miked and all instruments have equal share. This results in thunder when Jimmy Cobb trades 32s, 16s and 8s with the rest of the band.
Junior Mance shows how he is possibly the only pianist to originally replace Gene Harris for chordal support to the Brothers Adderley. "A Foggy Day" shows Julian Adderley ready to assume the throne of Parker’s incendiary ballad playing. But never far from the blues, "Sam’s Tune" and "Hurricane Connie" give the whole band a sanctified workout. Nate Adderley’s "Sermonette" is the surprise spiritual center of the set, illuminating the definitive link between the church and jazz.
No less a bebop expert, George Shearing opens his set with Ray Bryant’s circuitous "Pawn Ticket." All band members occupy ample space, illustrating the "Shearing Sound" that jettisoned the pianist onto the map in 1949 with his recording of "September in the Rain." That same sound expands on the ballads, "It Never Entered My Mind" and "There Never Will Be Another You."
The Adderleys join Shearing on Curtis Fuller’s "Soul Station," a pungent meeting of the minds. The sheer power of the Adderleys is tempered, not tamed by Shearing’s sophisticated approach. The blues piece "Soul Station" is the longest on the disc, offering everyone an opportunity to show off their chops, particularly Toots Theilemans, whose guitar ability equals his harmonica talent. After a Shearingian reading of "Old Devil Moon," and the addition of Armando Peraza on congas, the pianist ends his set with Dezil Best’s "Nothin' But the Best."
Unreleased live performances of this caliber are rare. I have had the opportunity to review a heap of this type of material, and little of it can hold a candle to this rather odd set. It will be interesting to see if the Fantasy Records basement has more of this quality to offer.