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June 2003

George Shearing/Cannonball Adderley Quintets
At Newport
Pablo

Odd pairing? Jazz thrives on such swinging bedfellows. The year was 1957, the venue was the Newport Jazz Festival (the fourth) and the evening also featured Erroll Garner and Stan Kenton. That pianist George Shearing and the Adderleys, alto saxophonist Cannonball and cornetist Nat, shared the stage was as much a coup for John Levy as it was for Newport's George Wein: Levy, the original bassist for Shearing's quintet, was manager for both Shearing and Cannonball. That was just one bond. Each leader was also a charmer of a communicator: Shearing witty and urbane; Cannonball only a notch below Ellington in his ability to connect and entertain. But musically, Shearing was a precise craftsman and Cannonball the more soulful swinger.

At Newport captures highlights from their respective sets: five tunes by Cannonball's band; five by Shearing's; and one featuring the Adderleys with Shearing's combo. Highlights from the highlights include the gospel-flavored "Sermonette" and a cleverly arranged "A Foggy Day" by Cannonball, who is backed by pianist Junior Mance, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Jimmy Cobb.

Accompanied by vibist Emil Richards, guitarist Toots Thielemans, bassist Al McKibbon and drummer Percy Brice, Shearing runs away with the prize for merging "It Never Entered My Mind" with the first Gymnopedie by eccentric French composer Erik Satie-meaning that the Richard Rodgers standard is in 3/4 and, at times, modal. It's beautiful and quite intimate. The other merger, the Adderleys with Shearing, is a straightahead blues bash on Curtis Fuller's "Soul Station."

The original recorded sound was already a tasty treat; the digital updating adds frosting to the cake.

Originally published in June 2003
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