Nat Adderley: A Little New York Midtown Music
Coming at the end of the ‘Seventies, this was a bit of a reunion. Nat and Johnny Griffin had played together on White Gardenia, Johnny’s salute to Billie Holiday. The others had played in various editions of the Cannonball band. (Victor Feldman and Ron Carter in the early ‘Sixties, Roy McCurdy later.) While the tone is light (the electric keys have a lot to do with it), the solos are heavy as the old friends make the most of this get-together.
Carter starts “Fortune’s Child” with a low bounce, Feldman adding high tinkles. The horns have a nice charge, but it’s a relaxed force; they don’t take over the track, they assume that position by birthright. Nat has bite to his solo – the stacatto shouts and rapid flutters are delivered with ease, and not without pleasure. Feldman’s turn is pleasant enough but he sounds generic at the electric; on the piano tracks he shows more confidence. And Griffin – I need hardly say more. He’s fast and furious, with that edge in his tone he almost always has. He picks up the tune all by himself, and so we go onward.
The title track is a step up: the piano helps, and so does Nat’s mute. He comes on warm and charming on this romantic evening of a song. Carter has a long springy solo, with fuzz in his tone and a lot of sliding. Nat skitters a bit but he doesn’t need flash: just that tone is enough. Griffin does a solid job, but no contest: this goes to Nat.
The electric keys work on the gentle funk of “Sunshine Sammy”. Feldman lays an “All Blues” riff as Griffin shouts bold, with plenty of growl. Nat makes his own noise, while Feldman strolls gently. It’s Johnny’s all right, as much as “Midtown” was Nat’s. “Yeehaw Junction” is a desperate moan on a lonely night. Nat takes the mute and cries up a storm with Carter as company. When Griffin and company join them, you know it’s a keeper. The sax is rarin’ to go: Johnny sputters, rolls, and boils, with his strongest turn of the album. Nat is relaxed, and just as sad. He lights on a four-note pattern, gets intense, and returns to the alleyway with Carter as the night slowly fades.
“Come Rain or Come Shine” is another muted ballad; Nat is warm, but less so than “Midtown”. Griffin struts in broad gestures, confident as all get-out; Nat now asserts himself, and the track is better for it. Carter stays close to theme in a very tuneful solo; it’s his best turn.
“Whipitup” is a happy mover by Feldman: Griffin was made for tunes like this, and he hits the ground running. He leaps, sings, exalts – and never stops moving. Nat does likewise, with a clear brassy tone not heard elsewhere – call it a draw. Feldman has his best: at the piano he is assured and brings the chords home. Carter’s “Saguaro” starts off with a horn tremolo and a tender tone from Griffin. More relaxed than elsewhere, the golden notes shine as the horn swaggers. It ends too soon; Nat starts breathy and quickly gains force. He tremoloes some more, and scales upward, Feldman’s sadness leading the way. Victor is brighter on the solo, with full chords and pretty blues. The tremolo returns from the dueling horns, and things end on a happy note. (Feldman’s, by the way.)