In the spring of 1960, fate had its way and a perfect jazz moment occurred in San Francisco. Cannonball Adderley was gigging in town with his quintet, the Oscar Peterson Trio was playing at the Blackhawk and Wes Montgomery arrived in the city to join his brothers, the Montgomery Brothers, on club dates. According to Orrin Keepnews, Adderley had been hoping to record with Ray Brown and Wes Montgomery for some time but touring schedules had made such a summit impossible.
Fortunately, Orrin was able to arrange for two sessions on the West Coast starting with San Francisco, and the result is Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners (Riverside), which was recorded in 1960 on May 21 (San Francisco) and June 5 (Los Angeles). The all-star group featured Adderley on alto sax, Montgomery on guitar, Victor Feldman on piano and vibes, Ray Brown on bass and Louis Hayes on drums.
According to Orrin's liner notes, the San Francisco tracks were recorded at a side-street meeting hall, which fortunately afforded ideal acoustics. The Los Angeles tracks were captured at United Recording Studios when Brown [pictured], Adderley and Montgomery were there about two weeks later.
How did Victor Feldman wind up on the date—his first with Adderley? Orrin explains in the album's liner notes...
"Victor Feldman [pictured] had been called up from Los Angeles largely on the strength of his merits on vibes. For in view of the emphasis to be placed on guitar and bass, Adderley had felt that instrument would most suitably round out the unusual musical coloration.
"Then Vic sat down at the piano to run through a new tune of his, The Chant, and all of us were immediately aware that a whole lot of hip people on the West Coast had apparently been asleep for the past couple of years.
"Certainly there had been no words of warning to lead any of us to expect what we were hearing: a genuinely soulful (in the very best sense of that hard-worked word), and immensely swinging, playing and composing talent. When, some months later, Cannonball asked Vic [pictured] to fill a piano vacancy in the Adderley Quintet, it was the end-product of a train of thought that had begun at this moment [during the recording sessions]."
What makes this album so special, in addition to the sterling personnel, is its gentle swinging charm and "walking" and up-tempos that give Brown a chance to stand out. Feldman's vibes chill Adderley's horn ever-so-slightly, and Montgomery's guitar lines and chords add snap and heft to the rhythm section.
The song choices are equally tasteful. The mix includes Charlie Parker's Au Privave; the operetta-based standard Yours Is My Heart Alone; Never Will I Marry from Frank Loesser's newly opened show Greenwillow; Feldman's soulful The Chant, Barry Harris' Lolita (which Montgomery [pictured] would record three years later on Portrait of Wes) and Azule Serape, another Feldman original.
The last two tracks, for me, are the high points of an already superb album. Lolita features Adderley's searing alto (which would be replaced by Melvin Rhyne's organ on Portrait of Wes) and the up-tempo Azule Serape, which is a finger-snapper. Also, Montgomery's solo on Never Will I Marry should not be missed.
In the weeks that followed in 1960, Montgomery would gig on the West Coast and record The Montgomery Brothers and Movin' Along for Riverside in Los Angeles. Brown would pick up with the Oscar Peterson Trio, playing the Newport Jazz Festival early July and Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. Adderley [pictured] also would head east to Newport and New York's Birdland before traveling to the West Coast and then Scandinavia that fall.
For a brief moment, the schedules of these three giants overlapped, and Orrin was there to take advantage of the calendar, recording one of Adderley's finest albums.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners, featuring Ray Brown and Wes Montgomery at Amazon here.
JazzWax clip: Here's Never Will I Marry from Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners...