The Adderley Brothers Blindfold Test

Published in Downbeat Magazine, Volume 29(8), p. 36 (1962-04-12)

Second half published in Downbeat Magazine, Volume 29(9), p. 43 (1962-04-26)

item thumbnail for The Adderley Brothers Blindfold Test
Nat Adderley and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Image credits: University of Idaho Leonard Feather Collection

Leonard Feather: Adderley brothers blindfold test, record number one.
[Plays “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” by Kai Winding, from Kai Ole, Verve Records (1961) Personnel: Kai Winding: trombone, arranger; Clark Terry: flugelhorn; Phil Woods: alto saxophone.]
Nat Adderley: Clark Terry.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: That’s right Clark Terry.
Nat Adderley: Best thing on the record, Clark Terry.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: I like the arrangement, I thought it was pretty hip. I don't know what they intend though, you know when I listened to that kind of thing I don't know whether they intend, to say they I mean I don't know whether this is an arrangers record or whether it’s a band I know it's not a band just Clark Terry Studios in New York so it's you know, some kind of writers kind of record or something of that nature and I don't know whether they are trying to reach a jazz market or pop market but what they're trying to do because it's got enough elements of all of that to be any kind of thing you know nothing artistically shattering but uh I thought it was very well done and very well played.
Leonard Feather: Did you hear that little flash of alto there?
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah what I didn't have an idea who that was and it was I thought for a minute, it might have been Quill. But I don’t know who it was.
Nat Adderley: I didn’t dig that alto too much, nice to hear the alto player playing with feeling and, and these days and times most of these alto players, most of these jazz musicians play with no more feeling, say a few years ago.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Nat Adderley: The alto wasn't startling Clark Terry was very good, arrangement got to be kind of monotonous as it wore on and on and on with this thing to me. But I think all in all, it was a good record. Do you want to rate it on a basis?
Leonard Feather: Well you know, two is fair, three is good, four is very good, five is tough.
Nat Adderley: Three and a half.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Okay.
Leonard Feather: You’re gonna do three and a half?
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah.
Nat Adderley: I’m gonna let you have this one.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah? Well.
Nat Adderley: Mostly, except I’m gonna make my statement about the rhythm section.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Well, I tell you. I know, of course, who most of the cats are. The only cat that I don't think I can identify by now is the drummer.
Leonard Feather: Yeah?
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: And it's probably just as well, because it sounds like Benny Carter with the with the giants. Funny thing about this, you know I've always said that a truly great player. Sort of hardly confines themselves to a school. You know, I can hear Dizzy Gillespie playing with an early recording with Duke. I can I can hear Dizzy Gillespie playing with Basie or with a small group or with a swing group quite a thing. I think Dizzy could’ve fit right in this just as well.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: And I sort of feel the same thing. I don't mean that everybody spans everything with as a definite overlapping of influences. And this, this kind of personnel because like Andre Previn could be a swing player or a modern player. And, and Leroy Vinnegar being the type bass player he is he can fit with the most hip modern jazz group, or in this case, a group that feels larger like a swing group. And Frank Rosolino plays well, in this group, he's sounds very well. So does Ben, in fact Nat identified Ben in the ensemble which was beautiful to me, you know. Very interesting, though, I think that when you listen to this guy, hippies probably won't agree with me. When I say hippies, I don't mean that derogatory, it's a feeling, a school of feeling, I mean, the hippies will probably say, Well, you know, what is that? You know, but I think that one should listen to everything and its own context, according to itself. And I think this is a good record, especially with these cats, you know, because for them to get together with all these different ideas and get a unity of feeling with the possible exception of the rhythm section, I don't know. In the section itself, it got a little funny.
Nat Adderley: That’s right.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: But the general overall feeling was great to me. And I love Benny.
Nat Adderley: I think the rhythm section sounds like that. Well, you know, Andre is great and Leroy is great and I don't know who the drummer is, but he’s in that company he’s probably great too. And I think that was out the three of them playing together. Maybe it would have a better feel. You know, everybody doesn't always play well together. You can take the three greatest cats in the world and they may not necessarily fit with each other.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Don’t forget though it’s four of ‘em, Barney Kessel’s there too.
Nat Adderley: Excuse me.
Leonard Feather: That’s right, yeah.
Nat Adderley: Pardon me. Well, I think what I mean is the rhythm section was a little stiff at times.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: But for each cat’s statement and the context of that tune, the traditional changes and so forth. I thought it was a good four star effort.
Nat Adderley: I'm still disagreeing with you about that guitar player.
Leonard Feather: Who do you think it was?
Nat Adderley: I thought it was Herb Ellis. But maybe it’s because I haven't heard that much.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Actually, they got Texas sound anyhow, I guess it could be any of those cats. But I thought the sound itself sounded a little more like Bonnie to me.
Nat Adderley: Okay.
Leonard Feather: What would you rate it then?
Nat Adderley: Eh, four and a half.
Leonard Feather: Four and a half.
Nat Adderley: Yeah.
Leonard Feather: And you give it four?
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah.
Leonard Feather: Alright.
Nat Adderley: Welcome traveller.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Well.
Nat Adderley: You going first or me?
Leonard Feather: No you start this time.
Nat Adderley: I'm scared that one.
Leonard Feather: You started the last one.
Nat Adderley: Now I’m really scared of it. You know, if you listen, if you listen to this kind of thing. And you just listen to one track like this. I couldn't get a...First of all the trumpet player was very good. Sounds like a good trumpet player. Being unrestricted the way that this type thing is, I don't know exactly what they meant to do. But whatever they meant to do, I think it was well done. From what I can understand about it. I don't understand everything. About this type thing. They all sound like good musicians. I'm afraid to say who it is because it can be any number of the at least three different groups that I can think of. Being the kind of tune it is a slow tune like this. If it had been a faster tune I probably could make a more accurate guess as to who it really is.
Leonard Feather: Well I heard you mention it while it was going on.
Nat Adderley: I mentioned Don Ellis while it was going on because this confused me from the beginning as much as I didn't want to make a guess. And as much as I haven't heard Don Ellis. And so I don't know how he sounds.
Leonard Feather: You know, you mean you just heard what kind of things he does.
Nat Adderley: I just read about what kind of things he does. I don't know whether that was Don Ellis or not. But if it is Don Ellis then he is a good trumpet player. And the best that I can say about it is that under the circumstances, I would rate it highly. However, I think that if I had to listen to the full album, I will probably rate it lower. Because I think that it would wear over a period of time. I don't know about playing without chords, this kind of thing. But these particular people sound to me that if they were playing with people who played with chords, then they would probably sound good.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Nat Adderley: So the vibes player sounded like a good vibes player. The piano player, I didn't get what he was doing. But then that's another thing altogether. And I don't think he intended for me to get what he was doing because he didn't plan any chords. But that’s it, I’d rate it highly, I give it three and a half.
Leonard Feather: Do you think it constitutes playing without chords, Julian?
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: I don't know what it meant really. I don't know what the composer intended as I have no point of reference, I guess um...
Leonard Feather: Playing without tonality is not the same thing as playing without chords.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah, you're right. But I don't know what he intended, you understand what I mean? According to the widespread current thinking in jazz, it doesn't, you don’t have to know what it means. You know, you just either listen to it enjoy it or not. So I'll just put it frankly, you know, once I read a review of one of our records by a guy named Leroy Jones or something like that, who said that to him listening to that particular record, he was reviewing the whole thing was a bore, he thought that there was not enough new being said, you know? And, uh, Nat sort of felt a draft when he read the thing he said what do you mean not enough new being said, he felt that it was too much like the same routine, you know, like Bobby Timmons was nothing. And we were nothing, the whole thing was really just a bunch of nothing and, and that it if he heard one tune, he heard enough of Adderleys for the evening. And I felt that he was entitled to say and if that's the way he felt, you see. And by the same token, I'll say this, that all I have to hear of this kind of music is a little bit. And then because I have no point of reference, and I'm not interested in the same kind of thing myself, that it wouldn't interest me very long. In fact, while listening to this, I was wondering when it was going to end more or less, not because it was bad or good, because I don't know whether it was good or bad. I feel that all the guys are obviously decent musicians, you know, the bass player sounds good. The drummer was doing all sorts of things, but I don't know what it meant. And unfortunately, I'm one of those old timers who feel that I have to get an understanding of what it means in order to really thoroughly enjoy a thing. And I don't think that I'm ready to rate this because for that same reason.
[Plays “Lover, Come Back to Me” by Clifford Brown from Clifford Brown Memorial, Prestige Records (1953) Personnel: Clifford Brown: trumpet; Art Farmer: trumpet; Bengt Hallberg: piano; Lars Gullin: baritone saxophone; Arne Domnerus: alto saxophone; Gunnar Johnson: bass; Jack Noren: drums.].
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Bye Bye.
Nat Adderley: So yeah we got them.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah, we got them with no trouble.
Leonard Feather: You got it all figured out, huh? Cannonball.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah, not everybody, you know, of course. I don't know all the names. But I know for sure. It's certainly Clifford Brown and Art Farmer. And for the time I'm figuring chronologically, now let me see, it had to be 1953.
Nat Adderley: ‘53 ‘54.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Well ‘54 you over there with Lionel.
Nat Adderley: Yeah, but they hadn’t been that until the first of the year so it could’ve been.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: They had.
Nat Adderley: They hadn’t been over that, you know, like the last.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Oh, yeah. Okay, well, no later than 54 first and 54. And for the time, especially, I thought that Brown and Farmer sounded very well. I always like Bengt Hallberg's lyricism. I thought that it was fair Lars Gullin. Yeah, I didn't like the alto player, because he reminds me of, I didn't like him simply because he didn't swing enough. You know, you know what he sounded like, to me sound like Paul Desmond without Paul Desmond’s pretty sound, you know, and the rhythm section just never really got off the ground to me. But it was very interesting to hear how those cats sounded. Then because Brown is startling with his same facility I guess that he's had for years, it’s beautiful. And, and Farmer still has that strong, warm. He had that warm feeling then that he has today, which was beautiful.
Nat Adderley: Well on that record to me, it sounded like you know, the old records of Basie with Prez, you know how Prez sounds like a breath of fresh air when he comes in? You know, it didn't, it said he sounds so much in front of the rest of what's going on right at the time. You know, this is the way it sounds to me with Brownie and Art playing and Bengt Hallberg plays well. I don't, I can't stand that. That left hand way of playing on tape that really, that's one of my pet hates to be able to play with the left hand like that strict kind of way like that. But what he was doing with his right hand with the rest of them, I didn’t dig that, period. And for the time.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: That alto player must have been Arne Domnerus or something.
Nat Adderley: Well he got a lot better later on, because I heard something else behind [unintelligible] there last year. That’s good. But um, I sit and rate them, you know, so I rate them on the basis of what I think is good, and what I think is bad. And I think that the good is as good as the bad. And I don't know what, I don't know what to say about that. I'll give it about three and a half stars for Brownie and Art, and the time that it was made and, and for what Bengt Hallberg played in the right hand. And I’d have given an awful lot of stars, if it wasn't for the rest of that thing going on all the time. Find a rhythm section and that’s funny, and cats playing funny stuff from other people. At least, like Cannon said on the previous record, with this record, you've got a point of reference with the other record. But not unless you don't have a point of reference, you don't really know how to rate it, because you don't have anything to base it on. But I got something to base this on. And it ain't that good. It's just on Brownie and Art.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Well, in that case, I'll have to disagree with you even more. Because if it was 1953 or early ‘54, it was during the height of the West Coast jazz thing when everything that was important in jazz and thinking about foreign cats and all like that their only point of reference was American records and American musicians and the big stars with the cats out here. You know, so if those cats were influenced by Gerry Mulligan, and by Paul Desmond. So I can understand why and even sympathize with them more and would give them four stars.
Nat Adderley: I think you can give them four stars, but I ain’t gonna give them no more stars than that because that ain’t even good West Coast.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: But you don't think it's good Europe?
Leonard Feather: [laughs] That’s a good one.
Nat Adderley: That ain’t even good Alabama. That's Western Europe.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Excuse me.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Well, I liked everything but the rubato parts. I didn't like the rubato parts too much you know, but uh it's worth wading through all that just to get to the few bombs of Ray Nance and Johnny Hodges. Plus Dukes comp is always interesting. What was that in there? It sounded like a baritone horn.
Nat Adderley: It sure did man, but must have been a valve trombone, because he ain’t got no baritone.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Well didn't the timbre, the sound wasn't like.
Nat Adderley: I don't know what it could have been.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: -a trombone, it sounded an awful lot like a baritone horn to me. I don’t know what it could’ve been but, well that just goes to show you that Duke has a way of taking something simple, very simple and making something out of it.
Nat Adderley: Give that a whole lot of stars.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: I think it would be unfair to give it too many stars if you wouldn't have any point of reference with Duke, because he's certainly done a lot of bit better things than that you know.
Nat Adderley: Well yeah.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: But uh, for Ray Nance and Johnny Hodges give them four stars.
Nat Adderley: I’m going back to four and a half.
Leonard Feather: All right.
Nat Adderley: I likes it.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Oh yeah, probably is.
Nat Adderley: Probably is Jackson. You know it’s cats like Ornette that needs to listen to him.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Should listen, that’s what we should do is listen.
Nat Adderley: Listen to Jackie McLean who I’ve been talking about for years.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: That's right. That’s what they should do is listen.
Nat Adderley: In fact it ain't Ornette that needs to listen to him, I take that back. It ain’t Ornette, it’s dumb people that’s fostering that thing, it’s not him talking to them, should listen what Jackie McLean and then the cats more and they'll find out that they put all that stuff on but they're not really that out there. You know what I’m saying? It's just being something that makes it more ridiculous. Because Jackie McLean been way ahead of the game, long time.
Leonard Feather: Yeah, that’s true.
Nat Adderley: For example [sings a melody]. Now what kind of, you know that line is mean and that other one is a little melody that he wrote? Long time ago. Listen, there ain’t nothing more hipper than that. They can’t do a thing like that.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: I say this. I don't know whether you had the machine on or not. My first impression was that it was Max, because the last part of that writing sounded like Booker Little’s style of writing to me, plus Donald's vibrato was similar to Booker's. But Booker’s was probably the most fluent of all the trumpet players I've ever heard.
Nat Adderley: Booker Little.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah, of all the modern jazz trumpet players. I mean he, you know, there's always been guys around like Joe Wilder, you know, really improbable technicians, you know, and before him, there was Charlie Shavers. And those guys, you know, who have always been fine musicians, but I thought that Booker was the fastest and smoothest trumpet player I have ever heard in my life.
Nat Adderley: Booker has the technique and the trumpet playing under control he really had that down.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Well, but I could tell it was Donald, because though Donald has a lot of facilities, he has a lot of chop trouble. And it comes through in his playing sometimes, you know it distinguishes it. But I enjoyed it, it was probably Jackie’s writing, I guess. Jackie's been out front with things for a long time. So for Joe’s solo and everything. I call it five.
Nat Adderley: Four and a half.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: [laughs] You dig?
Nat Adderley: You know what I mean? You can mess with that.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Oh, no, no. You talk about putting things in their own context listening to them the way they’re supposed to be. I don't know when this might have been recorded. But whenever it would have been recorded, it would be the performance was superb. And they swung. This group was just too much.
Nat Adderley: Because it was Charlie Shavers.
Leonard Feather: What is it you said before while the record was going?
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Oh, I said this was the first small band during the big band era that made me sit up and take notice and say, Wow, because the musicianship was superb, their ideas were superb. They swung, and O'Neill Spencer was a fantastic drummer, Charlie Shavers once again was a crazy trumpet player.
Nat Adderley: Still is.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: And Buster Bailey was a great player, everybody was great. Who came first, Procope or Benny Carter?
Leonard Feather: I think they came up in the same era.
Nat Adderley: Listen, this has got nothing to do with that record, but chronologically speaking, you've heard them before you heard the Savoy Sultans?
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Nat Adderley: I don't really remember, who did I hear first?
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: I heard them first.
Leonard Feather: You both remember having heard this band though?
Nat Adderley: Yes, Kirby, John, yeah.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Listen, as a funny story. They made some transcriptions years ago when transcriptions were the thing and we had one radio station in our hometown of Tallahassee, and they had a great transcription by the John Kirby group, and I heard this group when this station first came on the air one of the first transcriptions they used to play, played things like Maddie Melnick, or somebody and follow it with a John Kirby transcription and we just blew through the radio you know.
Nat Adderley: Five stars.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Five stars.
Nat Adderley: Listen, you know he plays so many funny instruments. I don't know whether that second one, I know it wasn't, at first I thought it was an alto well it wasn’t an alto so that must have been the manzella or the stritch or whatever. [unintelligible] But he sounded better on the second solo. I like what he played better on the second solo down on on the tenor solo that he played.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: I think it was a soprano. Man it sounded good. I have long been a Roland Kirk supporter, for more reasons than that one. First of all, it amazes me that he can play all them all at one time, you know. And second is I think he's genuinely talented, I would shudder to think of what he would sound like if he was anybody's ordinary saxophone player who played everyday playing with the cats and just swinging along and so forth. You know, because I think he's really got a lot of talent. Now the organ player, must have been a piano player, because I noticed he let his figure that he was playing throughout go when he started playing his own solo. I know, he's got two keyboards, and he had a bass player. So, you know, it seems to me that he could have kept it going, you know. In fact, I thought that was the weakest part of the record. The organ solo, not that his solo was bad, because it was interesting, but not really, you know, nothing exceptional. All in all, it was a pretty good record. And because of its uniqueness, I think it’s even more.
Nat Adderley: And he kept playing all them horns.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Yeah, you know, the only way I could tell it was Roland Kirk was he blew a siren.
Leonard Feather: Is that how you knew it now?
Nat Adderley: Yeah, I didn't get it until he played the siren because I told Cannon while the record was going I didn't recognize the tenor player. But, I didn't say anything else about it. And then the second solo that I thought was an alto at first and then began to sound, it did sound like a soprano. And then I thought that this solo is much better. It was killing me because I couldn't think for a minute who plays soprano saxophone it definitely wasn't Trane. And it certainly wasn't Steve Lacey.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: And it certainly wasn't Pony Poindexter.
Nat Adderley: You know? And I didn't know who it was for a minute because the soprano solo to me was very good.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: Sure.
Nat Adderley: That is I don’t know who them other cats were [unintelligible] but I suppose they played all right.
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: For Roland Kirk, and so forth four stars.
Nat Adderley: I agree.
Leonard Feather: That was a manzello.
Nat Adderley: Yeah I’ve listened to Roland a lot, and I've heard him play these instruments a lot. And sometimes because it's difficult playing two or three instruments like that he gets out of tune on one or the other. I was particularly, now that I think about it, I'm particularly knocked out with this particular record because he managed to stay in tune.
Leonard Feather: Yeah.
Nat Adderley: He managed to keep both of them in tune very well. All the way.
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