Fraternal partnerships are a frequent source of creative jazz inspiration. Reference the accomplishments of Montgomery brothers (Wes, Monk and Buddy) or those of the Jones clan (Elvin, Thad and Hank) for easy examples. And then there's Wynton, Branford, Delfayo and Jason, lest we leave out the Marsalises. Family ties have a way of forging lasting musical artistry, but the hobgoblin of rivalry can also enter into the equation when one sibling's star outshines those of the others.
Nat and Julian Adderley largely avoided such obstacles and forged a bond that made their band one of the most popular of the early 1960s. Still it was Cannonball's band and the marquees said so, leaving Nat to the less glamorous role of sideman. By most accounts he took the subordinate position in stride, even remarking to one interviewer: 'I thought I had the best of both worlds, because he couldn't fire me- the contract was filed by mama.'
Given the situation Nat's opportunities as a leader were probably something he savored, forums to show off his skills independent of his higher profile brother. Naturally combines two 1961 Jazzland sessions under the rubric of a single album. The first features Nat in the company of his regular compadres from the Adderley Quintet, while the second finds him joining forces with the Miles Davis rhythm section of the day. Nat's crisp tone conjures magic in both connotations, but the first four cuts with his familiar partners have the slight edge in terms of continuity and focus. The album's title track gets things cooking at a relaxed simmer with Jones' ringing ostinato and Hayes' combustible cymbals supplying the heat. Nat's cornet traipses deftly through the theme, trading in piquant exclamations and taffy-stretched lines. Zawinul's clean chords follow and maintain a similarly effervescent mood.
The pianist's 'Seventh Son,' penned in honor of usual band mate Yusef Lateef, receives a lithesome reading thanks to Nat's muted brass improvisations and the supple counterpoint of the composer and Jones. The leader seizes the piece's tail end for an especially elastic, if somewhat cursory dismantling of the melody. Sliding smoothly into ballad territory with 'Love Letters' the band shows their expertise at a slower tempo. Nat's open horn, uncannily recalls the restraint and economy of Miles in both phrasing and tone. 'This Man's Dream,' a sassy tune built expressly for hard bop blowing, reinstates a robust dose of the blues.
The Kelly-led rhythm team sounds off with the antique standard 'Chloe.' In collusion with Nat's mellow, muted horn they resuscitate new life into the tune's wizened chords and Philly Joe, in particular distinguishes himself with sensitive brushwork. 'Images' is sparser in countenance chord-wise, but fills in the gaps with a driving beat and expansive terrain for extemporization. Kelly breaks out early and makes good use of it, trailed by Nat's minor-keyed runs. Chambers shows himself no slouch when stacked up against the bass prowess of his peer Jones by crafting a finger chaffing solo mid-piece.
On 'Oleo' the Miles semblance returns in Nat's playing. Muted and fleet- noted, his brisk streaks match the bustling vigor of the rest of the band forwarded on the fast walking line of Chambers and the galloping snare of Philly Joe. 'Scotch and Water,' on loan from Zawinul, takes the set out in suitably funky fashion with strong statements from Nat and Kelly. Complimentary sides of a coin, these two quartets share the welcome common denominator of Nat Adderley. Fortunately, his role in the driver's seat would be repeated frequently over the ensuing decades. No doubt this earlier outing had something to do with it.
Jazzland on the web: http://www.fantasyjazz.com
Personnel: Nat Adderley- cornet; Joe Zawinul- piano*; Sam Jones- bass*; Louis Hayes- drums*; Wynton Kelly-
piano; Paul Chambers- bass; Philly Joe Jones- drums. Recorded: June 20* & July 19, 1961, NYC.