Orrin Keepnews is a name that’s probably unfamiliar to most jazz fans, but over the years you’ve almost certainly listened to a lot of the music he generated — not as a musician, but as a producer. In recognition of his accomplishments, Concord is reissuing many of his classic albums in 24-bit remastered versions, designating the series as the Keepnews Collection. One of the best is Nat Adderley’s Work Song.
Although he sometimes took a back seat in the fame game to his older brother – legendary saxophonist Cannonball Adderley – Nat was a fine jazz musician in his own right. Even though his cornet and his composing talents were often important components in his brother’s most successful recordings, Nat could dazzle with his individual efforts too. This album, named after what was probably his best-known song, is generally considered to be one of his classics.
Originally recorded in a series of sessions in early 1960, the tracks on the album feature a varying mix of first-class musicians that ranges from a trio all the way up to a sextet. Nat’s sidemen included guitarist Wes Montgomery, pianist Bobby Timmons, drummer Louis Hayes, and bassist Sam Jones, who also picks up the cello occasionally. Also heard playing bass in spots are Keter Betts and Percy Heath.
Although Nat was also playing in his brother’s quintet at that time, Cannonball is not among the musicians here, but one of his compositions is included among the tracks. “Sack Of Woe,” featuring a lead by Nat’s muted cornet, is one of the best on the album, and is one of the songs performed by the full sextet.
Of course, Nat includes a couple of his own songs. In addition to the familiar, but always welcome “Work Song,” he offers “Fallout,” which features stong keyboard work by Timmons. He’s also included some ageless standards, given a different twist in some cases by the cornet lead. I especially enjoyed the smokey, plaintive sounds of Nat’s horn on Gershwin’s “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” and again on a piece that was probably my favorite on the album, “My Heart Stood Still.” It is reminiscent of Miles Davis, who Nat admired and was influenced by.
A classic album by one of the legends of jazz — recommended.