In 1959, when In San Francisco was recorded, Cannonball Adderley was riding very high, having reformed his quintet with brother Nat following a stint with Miles Davis (performing on the classic Kind of Blue sessions) and the release of his classic ’58 album Somethin’ Else.
Orrin Keepnews decided to record Adderley’s group live at a small club in San Francisco, the Jazz Workshop. The recording process was a challenge, partly because of the speed needed to set up and record the date properly and partly because of the challenge of recording in a small, packed, noisy club atmosphere. Shortly before this, Keepnews had been recording sessions with guitar phenom Wes Montgomery, who Julian and Nat Adderley had discovered playing in an Indianapolis club, and a scant three months later he would record Nat Adderley’s classic album Work Song, featuring Montgomery.
Work Song also featured the same rhythm section heard on this live outing—Bobby Timmons at the piano, Sam Jones on bass, and Louis Hayes on drums. They are solid on the studio set, but on this live recording, they are propulsive and full of energy that seems to bounce off the walls. Add to that Cannonball’s alto sax, darting here and there, uniting bebop and funky blues-drenched music in a manner that came to be known as ‘soul jazz’, and Nat Adderley’s acerbic, punchy cornet work that is consistently underrated by most listeners today, and you have a performance that is simply essential to any jazz lover’s music collection.
In San Francisco set the standard for live jazz recordings done in clubs, making no attempt to cut out audience sounds and leaving in Adderley’s comments between songs in. This was a wise choice, because Adderley had the ability to educate his audiences about his audience without talking down to them, and the sheer pleasure that he took in playing music comes across loud and clear. This approach to live recording was continued on both subsequent Riverside releases such as Sextet In New York and later work for Capitol like the classic Mercy Mercy Mercy.
Adderley and company showed up loaded for bear on this date, and the performances are nothing short of fantastic. Cannonball was the alto saxophonist who took the bop language of the instrument, as invented by Charlie Parker, and applied it to a funky, blues-drenched music that was first known as hard bop and then evolved into soul jazz. Nat Adderley is one of the great overlooked trumpet talents from this time period, and his playing here demonstrates why he was so valuable to his brother’s small combos. Bobby Timmons is smokin’, particularly on his solos on “Spontaneous Combustion” and Oscar Pettiford’s full speed ahead masterpiece “Bohemia After Dark.”
There are two alternate takes here, of “This Here” and “You Got It!”, both of which are as strong as the version originally included on the album and both of which demonstrate the inventiveness and originality of this essential group. No jazz collection worthy of the name will be lacking Cannonball Adderley’s In San Francisco, and for those who don’t yet have it, now is the time to pick it up, as the newly remastered recording sounds fantastic.