Revisiting: Cannonball Adderley's Nippon Soul

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Cannonball Adderley - Nippon Soul
Cannonball Adderley’s Nippon Soul (1963).

I recently bought a good vinyl cleaner and have been enjoying pulling out vintage vinyl, cleaning when necessary, and spinning it on the turntable. I also recently upgraded my phono cartridge and am rediscovering a treasure trove of musical delights hidden in the grooves.

One of the LPs I pulled out is Nippon Soul: Cannonball Adderley, recorded live at Tokyo’s Sankei Hall in 1963. It was to be the first recording by an American jazz group on Tokyo.

Julian “Cannonball” (so named because he was a big man) Adderley was pulled from his teaching job in Florida by Miles Davis, and the alto sax genius stepped up to the plate fully-formed. When Coltrane joined the Miles Davis Sextet and had questions, Miles would just tell him, “Ask Cannonball.”

Hearing the album is a joy. First, there is Cannonball the congenial host, ever the teacher, telling the audience what the songs are about. The song “The Weaver” is about a guy all the musicians know. “Brother John,” Cannonball explains, is named after John Coltrane. “Nippon Soul,” the title cut, was penned, Adderley explains, “by somebody named Cannonball Adderley,” and the audience laughs.

Adderley was one of America’s great jazz ambassadors. After the terrible Pacific War and American antipathy and distrust that characterized World War II, music was again bringing people together. Japan saw that again the following year with the Tokyo Olympiad, the first major postwar event to be held in the Japanese capital. Once again, we see that music brings people together, promoting peace and understanding. War, nationalism, and propaganda don’t.

The band on this recording includes brother Nat Adderley on cornet, Yusef Lateef on flute, oboe, and tenor, Austrian great Joe Zawinul on piano, and the driving rhythm section of Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. It is both a wonderful recording and a piece of history.

A rare clip of the group performing Yusef Lateef’s “Brother John.” Lateef plays oboe.

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