Throughout much of his musical career, trumpeter Nat Adderley was overshadowed by his larger-than-life sibling, the legendary alto saxophonist Julian "Cannonball Adderley. But Nat was a giant in his own right, not only as a player but also as a composer. (Does "Work Song ring a bell?) Nat also went out of his way to nurture younger musicians, among whom was trombonist Scott Whitfield. "Nat was my friend, my mentor, says Whitfield, "and truly a model to which we should all aspire. Now, six years after Nat's passing at age 69, Whitfield and his Jazz Orchestra East (he has one on each coast) have endeavored to repay his kindness, producing a marvelous tribute to "Cannonball's younger brother that underscores Nat's remarkable abilities as a writer.
All of the compositions are Nat's, masterfully arranged for the band by Whitfield, whose lustrous trombone is showcased on the enchanting ballad "Roses for Your Pillow. The album opens, appropriately enough, with Nat's best-known composition, "Work Song, on which guest artists Vincent Herring (alto sax) and Marvin Stamm (trumpet) deliver powerful solos, as do Whitfield and pianist Kenny Ascher. Another guest, tubaist Howard Johnson, sets the compass on the funky "Hummin', followed by bass trombonist Wayne Coniglio, trumpeter Mike Ponella and Herring, this time on soprano sax.
"The Old Country is an easygoing groover, "Plum Street a no-holds-barred swinger, with Coniglio, trumpeter Mike Hackett and baritone Dave Schumacher enlivening the former, Hackett, drummer Darryl Pellegrini and "dueling baritones Schumacher and Johnson doing likewise on the latter. The charming "Little Boy with the Sad Eyes, inspired by a Mexican boy selling homemade serapes to tourists (brisk solos by muted trombonist Pete McGuinness, alto Dave Pietro, muted trumpeter Bruce Staelens, bassist Phil Palombi), precedes another familiar melody, the playful "Jive Samba (clever ad-libs courtesy of Staelens, Herring, Palombi, tenor Dan Jordan). Diamonds closes with two more gems, the cheerful "Naturally (featuring Whitfield, Ascher, Jordan on flute) and my personal favorite, "Teaneck, a spirited swinger with solos to match by Pellegrini, Whitfield, Ascher and another guest, alto saxophonist Karolina Strassmayer, late of DIVA and now dividing her time between New York City and Germany's superb WDR Big Band.
This is not only a spectacular and long-overdue salute to a wonderful musician and human being, Nathaniel C. Adderley, it's also Whitfield's most impressive big band album to date and one of the year's best.
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