The Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra East
DIAMONDS FOR NAT - Liner Notes
In the course of life, sometimes we are blessed to be associated with individuals who are true icons in every sense of the word. To me, Nat Adderley was such an individual. Nat was my friend, my mentor, and truly a model to which we should all aspire. This collection is a tribute to the man and his music, a long overdue "thank you" to someone who was a hero to many of us. Here's to you, Nat!
The album (yes, I STILL say album!) begins with the classic of all classics from the Adderley catalog, Work Song. Nat used to introduce this, tongue-in-cheek, as "my favorite song. I love this song!" Indeed, it became a true jazz standard, with many recordings by Nat and his brother, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, as well as others. Where it REALLY took off, Nat would explain, was when Oscar Brown, Jr.. wrote his now-famous lyric. "Then all the singers got hold of it!" Here, I am proud to have not one but TWO special guests: my old cohort from Nat's group, Vincent Herring on alto saxophone; and the great trumpeter, educator, and all-around nice guy Marvin Stamm. The arrangement begins the same way we used to with the Nat Adderley Sextet, with a dramatic rubato statement featuring the "front line" of Vincent, Marv, and yours truly. After the theme is stated (and the ferocious groove established!), we solo in that order, followed by one of the most inventive pianists in the jazz world, Kenny Ascher.
Next up is a slightly later piece, partially inspired by the rhythm of Nat's grandmother's rocking chair on her front porch (ba-BUMP, ba-BUMP )! Hummin' begins with an exchange between our other special guest, world-class multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson (here on tuba), and bass trombonist Wayne Coniglio. After the groove is established and the opening theme stated, we hear from lead trumpeter Mike Ponella, followed by Vincent Herring, this time on soprano.
The Old Country is another classic from Nat's fertile, soulful mind. The most well-known recording may be from "Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley." I borrowed some of the lovely Ms. Wilson's phrasing for the opening and closing saxophone melody. For the chart as a whole, I think I was visited by another hero of mine, the late great Thad Jones, in the course of writing! (Thanks, Thad!) Great solos from Wayne Coniglio, trumpeter Mike Hackett, and Dave Schumacher on baritone sax!
In 1963, Nat made his "Little Big Horn" record for the Riverside label. One of Nat's compositions for that album was this BEAUTIFUL ballad, Roses For Your Pillow. I decided to keep the solo spot for myself on this one (one of the "perks" of being a leader)!
Plum Street is another piece from Nat's later period, a high-energy blowing fest featuring the "dueling baritones" of Dave Schumacher and Howard Johnson for openers. After the melody, we hear once again from Mike Hackett on trumpet, followed by one of the most melodic drummers in the business, Darryl Pellegrini.
The way Nat told the story, Little Boy With The Sad Eyes was inspired by a trip to Mexico with Cannon's quintet. There apparently was a young boy walking along the beach, wearing a sad expression and selling homemade serapes to passing tourists. According to Nat, "this little boy had the amazing ability to go from sad to happy for a few pesos!" Pete McGuinness has the trombone duty on this, followed by altoist Dave Pietro (my old classmate from North Texas AND bandmate from the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra), trumpeter Bruce Staelens and bassist Phil Palombi.
If Work Song is Nat's best-known composition, a very close second HAS to be Jive Samba. That dry Adderley wit comes through loud and clear on his famous melody. Solos are by Bruce Staelens, Vincent Herring (back on alto), tenor saxophonist Dan Jordan (a TRUE individual, which is what we ALL should strive for), and Phil Palombi once again.
I think I'll let Nat introduce the next tune: "Sometimes you can find out a lot about people who are composers by checking out how they title the songs. People who write songs about love basically have a romantic nature. Some people write about current events. Charlie Mingus always wrote songs about what was going on at the time. Of course, you can logically assume that people who write songs and name them for themselves are egotistical people. Here's an original composition called 'Naturally'." (See what I mean about Nat's sense of humor?) This was also recorded under another title, "Never Say Yes," and appeared on the Nancy Wilson record as such. We hear from Dan Jordan once more, this time on flute, followed by the leader on trombone and Kenny Archer on piano.
The album closes with yet another piece from the same period, Teaneck, named for the charming northern New Jersey town where Nat, his lovely wife Ann, and their kids Alison and Nathaniel (now a successful pianist and composer in his own right) made their home for many years. With an intro punctuated eloquently by Darryl Pellegrini, we're off into another relentless groove (I use the word 'groove' so much here because that was such an important part of Nat's music)! After I've said my piece, ANOTHER great altoist takes the reins: Karolina Strassmayer, native to Austria, currently dividing her time between New York and Cologne, Germany, where she is part of the great WDR Big Band. After Karolina, Kenny Archer contributes another solo which can only be described as brilliant (and worthy of transcription)!
As I look back at the foregoing project, I can honestly say it was (and IS) a labor of love. Thank you, Nat Adderley, for being such a great influence on me, both musically AND personally! Enjoy!