"Cleanhead & Cannonball"
Vocals by EDDIE VINSON;
accompanied by The CANNONBALL ADDERLEY QUINTET:
Nat Adderley, cornet;
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, alto sax;
Joe Zawinul, piano;
Sam Jones, bass;
Louis Hayes , drums.
|Original Track list||Landmark re-issue LLP 1309 Track list|
1. Bright Lights, Big City
1. Back Door Blues (3:32)(Vinson)previously
1. Back Door Blues (2:16)(Vinson)
1. Bright Lights, Big City
Vinson plays alto sax on instrumental selections and Kiney Stew;Cannonball plays on all over except This Time. Recorded in New York on February 14, 1962; and Chicago , September 19, 1961.
This album is about the blues-the blues of a man who is a true master of the rich, virile, earthy and everlasting art of blues-singing. The word "art" is not being used loosely here: one of the definitions to be found in my dictionary is "the making or doing of things that have form and beauty"-and that certainly applies to what EDDIE VINSON has to offer here.
The blues has form, all right. Form does have something to do with whether a song is made up of 12-bar units (as most blues tunes are) or 8-bar (as some are) or what kind of chords it uses. But much more than that it has to do with whether a song demonstrates a proper awareness of what the blues is supposed to be about. Mostly it is concerned with truth-hard truths and pleasant truths; love gone wrong, or love that's going to turn out just fine; being broke, or dreaming big and ambitious dreams. That doesn't mean that the blues is pinned down to nothing but "realism"-as Eddie Vinson makes clear here by covering a range of subjects from a very real event like running out the back door and down the street one night (Back Door Blues) all the way to a fantasy about "sittin' in the President's rockin' chair" (Just a Dream) -
And the blues has a great deal of beauty, too, for everyone who is able to realize that "beauty" doesn't have to mean only pink fluffy clouds or lush violins in the background. The blues' kind of beauty is the sort that comes when your emotions are deeply and honestly stirred, when a singer like Eddie Vinson can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck by the way he slurs a note or by the way he tells his story about good times or a straying woman and turns it into tough and true poetry.
There's no doubt that Vinson understands the form and can make you aware of the beauty. And, to stick with the dictionary's words, he's quite a man at "making", as well as "doing". The doing is on all the tracks of this album; and the making is on most of them, as a glance at the composer credits quickly shows. Bright Lights, Big City is the work of one of today's most popular blues singers, Jimmy Reed; Just a Dream is by the late great Big Bill Broonzy; and Ollie Jones set the words to Vinson's own gospel-flavored This Time.
Otherwise, all the "making" is Eddie's, including two blues-flavored instrumentals-the plaintive but swinging Arriving Soon and the swift Vinsonology-on -both of which he takes up his alto sax to show that he can play with the best of them, too. Among the numbers here are two of his big earlier hits, Person to Person and Kidney Stew (on which he also takes a very mean alto solo), which remain strong favorites with every audience Vinson faces. As for his very biggest previous success, Cherry Red, Eddie firmly ruled it out- "I've recorded that enough; it's time for newer things ." Those newer things include Back Door Blues, which has already stirred up a lot of excitement across the country as a single; the very danceable (and twist-able!) Hold it ; and the deep-down This Time.
"Cleanhead"- if you can't figure out that nickname take a look at any photograph of the man-was born Houston, Texas. His powerful and very personal style (which has influenced more than a few other blues singers) brought him to the top with Cootie Williams' big band in the 1940s, and since then he has led groups and worked on his own , mostly in the Midwest , spending much time in Chicago. he had not recorded in a few years when Riverside star Cannonball Adderley ran into him in Kansas City and quickly realized that there was far too much blues talent here not to be heard by every-one. A record date was organized, and held in Chicago with Adderley offering Cleanhead the support of one' of the finest groups on the scene today. Later when Eddie came to New York to play a theater engagement this album was completed, with the same musical backing. In both cases the Adderley band, which knows and loves the blues thoroughly, did a magnificent job of playing for Vinson, giving him a solid foundation without ever trying to shift the spotlight away from where they felt it belonged: right on this great singer of the blues.
Yes, Cleanhead is here; and that's good reason for a lot of people to start celebrating!
Liner note from the LANDMARK re-issue
When Julian Adderley ran into Eddie Vinson in Kansas City late in the summer of 1961, the alto player was riding high and the blues singer wasn't doing too well. Cannonball's quintet was among the most highly regarded groups on the jazz scene; Cleanhead, although he was working fairly regularly, mostly in and around Chicago, hadn't made a record in several years.
Part of Adderley's working arrangement at Riverside Records in those days allowed him a pretty free hand in recording anyone who aroused his enthusiasm. It was an opportunity he usually did not waste, whether it involved setting up the initial studio appearance of teen-aged Chuck Mangione or constructing a showcase album for a neglected major artist like Budd Johnson. On this occasion he moved quickly to bring Cleanhead into a Chicago studio for the first of the two sessions that make up this release.
In one important respect this was unlike any of Cannon's other efforts as a producer: he used his own band as a unit in support of Vinson. It was a highly appropriate move, considering the blues-playing credentials of that band, which was then in the forefront of the popular "soul jazz" movement. Its four long-time regulars (Adderley, his cornetist brother Nat, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Louis Hayes) had just been joined by that funkiest of Austrian pianists, Joe Zawinul, famous much later as the guiding force of Weather Report, but possibly best known way back then for his initial American gig as Dinah Washington's accompanist. This basically close-knit unit also had some familiarity with the studio and engineer being used; it was the same combination I had used about eighteen months earlier in completing the quintet's second Riverside album ("Them Dirty Blues" - now available again as a Landmark reissue). Under these relaxed conditions, Cleanhead and his remarkable back-up band knocked off eight selections in a single day. The repertoire included an early Vinson hit (Kidney Stew) and three of Cleanhead's instrumental compositions (notably the vibrant Arriving Soon), on all of which the always-gracious Cannonball chose to remain in the control room, keeping the emphasis on what has too often been a well-kept secret: the singer's considerable jazz talent on alto saxophone.
But the session also included a couple of vocal numbers newly written by Vinson, and they turned out to be what the date was all about. When Adderley brought the tapes back to New York, everyone at Riverside flipped for Back Door Blues and Hold It ; they were edited down to suitable shortness and - uncharacteristically for our label - issued as a would-be-commercial single. Of course, we had thought the latter had the hit potential and the blues was probably just B-side filler; actually, it was Back Door that took off, particularly in the Chicago area. After a while, though (according to legend), a local preacher devoted a Sunday sermon to attacking the graphic immorality of its narrative, and that killed it. (The world obviously has changed a lot since then, but we were clearly ahead of our time in getting into trouble over explicit lyrics!)
Nevertheless, when Cleanhead came to New York five months to complete an album designed to follow up on the semi-success of the single. Accordingly, two of the instrumentals from the first session remained unused, and we stayed with the shortened versions of Hold It! and Back Door Blues declining to re-insert their deleted Adderley and Zawinul solos. And that's how the situation was frozen for a full twenty-five years, until I began trying to put together a first reissue of what had become a long-lost and virtually forgotten project.
Landmark has already presented, in seven separate volumes, "The Cannonball Adderley Collection" - rediscovering albums, most originally produced by me, which had been literally buried by some strange twists of fate. To recap briefly, all of this Adderley material is part of a substantial body of important jazz material created during one of the most valued associations of my more than three decades as a producer: the six years (1958 - 64) that Cannon-ball spent as a Riverside artist. After that label shut down in '64, Adderley was able to gain ownership of about half of his masters and turned them over to Capitol, for whom he was then recording. They briefly reintroduced a few selections, but then he left the company and not long thereafter they stopped issuing any jazz. In effect, Capitol had no use to make of such material, no staff members still familiar with it-actually no compelling reason to even remain aware of its existence.
But Landmark and I had several such reasons-very much including that Cannon had been a friend as well as a colleague, and that Riverside was a label I had co-founded. After making a rerelease agreement, and then suffering much initial frustration when many of the master tapes appeared to be unfindable, we were able to locate sufficient material (in hiding places ranging from the Capitol vaults to a record company in Tokyo) to complete the "Collection" series. But as far as the unique Cannonball~Cleanhead collaboration was concerned, we at first seemed out of luck. All that was available from Capitol were three selections that had been part of an anthology; they included the two short versions from the single. Otherwise, no tapes there, and none at any European or Japanese sources. (Perhaps these English-language blues hadn't been wanted overseas in '62.) Eventually, though, stubborn searching paid off pretty well: when some reels from the Chicago session were located, they contained not only the two unissued instrumentals but the original, full-length Back Door Blues and Hold It!
Then a final step. I had become aware of the uncanny "No-NOISE" process, with which a San Francisco computer operation aptly named Sonic Solutions has been removing clicks, pops, and rumbles from some very early recordings without affecting the music. I had transferred to tape a reasonably clean copy of the Riverside album, borrowed from a most helpful collector; Sonic Solutions was persuaded to work its magic on a few key selections -and here we are with this rather bionic variation on the original product, a vivid recreation of those two long-ago days when "Cleanhead" Vinson worked with some of the best and most non-routine accompaniment a blues singer ever had.