Luther Hughes & the Cannonball-Coltrane Project
I must admit, when I first heard about this cd (seeing it on a list of upcoming albums) I wasnt impressed. Heres a relatively unknown bassist, Luther Hughes, (probably best know for his work with Gene Harris in the 90s) supposedly replicating the classic Cannonball Adderley/John Coltrane Quintet in Chicago record, right down to the album art? Didnt concept albums like that die a couple of years ago? Well, it turns out first impressions can be wrong, the cd isnt quite what it seems, and it contains some excellent playing by some relatively unknown (outside of LA) musicians, and Im certain its going to get quite a bit of airplay nationwide.
First, while it is a tribute to the record I mentioned earlier, (right down to the album cover), its really not a remake of the original album. Only one tune from the Cannonball/Trane album, Limehouse Blues, appears on this new records. There are a number of originals, (and some very fine tunes, like drummer Paul Kreibichs Partido Mar Vista, and tenor saxophonist Glen Cashmans tune No Mercy, a sort of musical homage to Joe Zawinuls Mercy Mercy Mercy. Also included are Coltranes Impressions and Bass Blues, plus Tadd Damerons Super Jet and Love For Sale, with an arrangement inspired by the Miles Davis Sextets recording of that number from 1958.
Oddly enough, though Hughes is the leader, he doesnt take much of the spotlight, so much so that I would have never guessed that this was a record by a bass player. Given the concept, the saxes dominate, with Cashman, and alto saxophonist Bruce Babad leading the way. While neither are especially distinctive soloists, they are nonetheless a joy to listen to, and make one wonder why there are more bands that feature a tenor/alto frontline. Its obvious that a considerable amount of work went into this project, more than most normal independent artist produced projects. The band is always right on the money, the recording quality is excellent, theres nice liner notes, and attractive packaging. A pleasant surprise for what could have been another dull and lifeless tribute session.