Half Notes: Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Band – Things Are Getting Better (2011)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Bassist Luther Hughes leads a tenor sax/alto sax quintet in its forth recording paying tribute to the spirit of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane. Specifically, The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago album recorded with Miles Davis’ band sans Miles himself just six months before they all reconvened to tape this little landmark record called Kind Of Blue. There are no tracks from that only album to feature both saxophone giants without the trumpet giant (although “Primrose Star” is based on the chord changes of “Stars Fell On Alabama”). Instead, it seeks to capture the spirit of the two playing together through songs the two each played early in their post-Miles careers, or originals that were clearly inspired by their style of the time. That’s why brother Nat’s song “Jive Samba” is on here, as well as Cannonball’s own “Things Are Getting Better” and a finger snapping rundown of “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise,” covered by ‘Trane on his Live At The Village Vanguard disc from 1961. The originals written by various band members are faithful to the early 60s styles of the two icons: “Sunset At Hermosa” is one of those breezy, Latin-flavored tunes of the style that Cannonball love to play, while “McCoy” echoed the chordal voicings of Coltrane’s pianist, McCoy Tyner. Though Adderley and Coltrane went in entirely separate directions musically, they found their common ground within the Davis band that lingered in each man’s style for years after they left the band: a commonality based on blues, soul and sharp performances. The Cannonball-Coltrane Band does a good job of illuminating that connection.

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