Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson

Cleanhead & Cannonball

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A plethora of "lost" recording dates have popped up since the dawn of the compact disc, especially in the jazz world. Unfortunately, most of them haven't been worth the wait and, indeed, as underwhelming as some of them have been, it might -- at least aesthetically speaking -- have been better had they not been unearthed. Happily, this isn't one of these occasions. The two sessions here were recorded in 1961 and 1962 in Chicago and New York, and feature Cannonball Adderley's quintet that included pianist Joe Zawinul, bassist Sam Jones, drummer Louis Hayes, and brother Nat on cornet. Cleanhead sings his ass off and plays some alto with Cannonball. These dates reveal an anomaly in jazz at the time: The recordings are the place on the map where jazz and R&B meet head on, bringing the full force of their respective traditions and neither giving an inch. And it works so well -- from the wild bluesy shout of Vinson in call and response with Adderley on "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Hold It!" to the shimmering dual jazz saxophones on "Arriving Soon" -- that it begs the question as to why it didn't happen more often. The soloing is top-flight, with some especially knotty work by Nat on "Person to Person" and "This Time." Cannonball is excellent throughout; the R&B and blues idioms are all meat and potatoes for him, and he feels confident settling inside the groove without the need to push the boundary. Ironically, it's Vinson who compensates in that way. And the anchor in all of this is Zawinul, leading the rhythm section, condensing both musics to their most essential harmonics and tonalities, and building them out with a swinging style and cadence that are nothing short of remarkable. These two sets may be comprised of songs and standards from the repertoire, but make no mistake, they are blowing sessions. The digital transfer by Joe Tarantino is flawless and so lifelike it's startling. Highly recommended.

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