and his merry menbrother/cornetist Nat Adderley
, bassist Victor Gaskin, backbeat king drummer Roy McCurdy
and bursting-at-the-seams-with-new-ideas pianist Joe Zawinul
were having themselves a high time during 1966-67, that Renaissance time of adventure between Cecil Taylor
's Unit Structures
(Blue Note, 1966), Miles Smiles
(Columbia, 1967) and the colorful, imagination emancipations of Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band
(Capital, 1967) and Charles Lloyd
's live Forest Sunflower
(Atlantic, 1967). Into this froth drops Cannonball's earthy and jocular soul/blues/jazz and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" is tapping the national Top Ten and later takes home a Grammy for the storied LP Mercy, Mercy, Mercy Live at The Club!
Recorded pre and post that milestone release, Reel to Real Recordings gives us Swingin' In Seattle: Live at The Penthouse (1966-1967)
and it's really hardno, it's damn impossiblenot to feel on a cellar-level the celebratory joy these guys share and create with, as they peak and peak, night after night.
And, yes, of course there's a whole provenance of discovering unheard tapes and the human wrangling that goes on behind the scenes to get these things into the grateful listening sphere, but that could be a whole other essay. Meanwhile, "Big P," the break-from-the-gate opening track, swings and it gooses and it gets the audience up early and often. "Big P, that's a familiar way to open," Cannonball outros laconically, "Seems like we always begin to play "Big P" in Seattle. Maybe that's uhh, how we feel about things." Well thank you for that, a million times thank you!
These guys could do no wrong to whatever they brought their hearts to and "The Girl Next Door" is mercurial proof of that. From slow romance to dance floor fling with sky-high solos and tempo shifts that defy any metronome, the quintet just flows on its own time, in its own space and we step into that river as true disciples and ride the tide. "Sticks," a then new Cannonball composition, barrels from the get go and doesn't stop. One feels that, edited to perhaps the four-minute mark, this would have a made a great follow-up single with its punchy, chorus-like theme and soaring sax.
After a spirited, though pop-oriented, swing through the easy bossa nova of "The Morning of the Carnival" and Leonard Bernstein's elegiac "Somewhere," the band gets back to brass tacks and fires the cylinders for Zawinul's percolating spiral "74 Miles Away," with a for-the-ages Nat solo. A brazen run through Charlie Parker
's "Back Home Blues" has Nat sitting out while big brother takes center stage. Julian and Nat keep being mentioned, but none of this sustained exuberance is possible with McCurdy, Gaskin, and Zawinul who take the task at hand and charge head on with it. The raucous "Hippodelphia," another gem from Zawinul's youthful, hyperactive pen, brings the October '67 night to a rousing close. A real early contender for best of 2019 lists.