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"Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project -
Things Are Getting Better"

by SS - Jan. 2011

Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project have just released their fourth cd on Primrose Lane Music. Just reading the title of this CD, I knew I was in for a treat. John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley are arguably the two greatest jazz saxophone legends of the 20th Century. Luther Hughes tribute band highlights the spirit of the music of Trane and Cannonball. Although neither Glenn Cashman on tenor nor Bruce Babad on alto sounds much like either legend, they are two wonderful saxophonists with their own unique sound. In addition to these two fine saxophonists, Ed Czach plays piano, Hughes bass and Paul Kreibich drums & percussion.

Live Samba features Cashman on tenor, Czach on piano, Babad on alto and finally Hughes on bass. The playful and sometimes bluesy melody surrounds spirited solos by all on both ends.

The second cut Glo In The Dark initially pays tribute to the sound of Vince Guaraldi and his wonderful piano renderings. In the liner notes it says, “This Snoopy-esque waltz was written to honor…Gloria Cadena.” The band and soloist swing hard throughout and it is only during the intro that the Snoopy reference really seems to ring true. Another lovely waltz covered here is Frank Rosolino’s Blue Daniel where Hughes again stretches on bass.

The Afro-Cuban flare of McCoy certainly evokes images of Mr. Tyner at the piano, but here it is Ed Czach who solos first. Bruce Babad plays a wonderfully melodic solo on alto sax followed by a slightly angrier take on the changes by tenorman Glenn Cashman. Simply put – I love this cut.

The smooth and sexy sound of Babad’s alto sax on Primrose Star is in perfect contract to the first three cuts of Things Are Getting Better. Here Babad’s sound is full, fat and harkens back to not only Cannonball’s style but many of the great lead alto players of years past. His flowing doubletime lines at 3:00 and beyond are a treat.

Softly as in a Morning Sunrise is an often-called standard, which can easily stagnate – but not here. The ensemble executes a perfectly delightful arrangement by Cashman followed with inspired solos by all. An alto and tenor unison shout chorus prefaces the outchorus played by the quintet.

The relaxed samba Sunset at Hermosa features Kreibich on drums for the first time on the recording. The first solo is taken by Cashman and second by Babad. The two then trade with Kreibich on drums.

One many occasions while listening to CCP’s Things Are Getting Better I found a smile break out on my face. It was never more apparent than while listening to Samba Para Um Dia Chuvoso. According to the liner notes, “This Rainy Day Samba includes an interesting ensemble chorus…with rhythm section maintaining a happy groove.”

Just as Babad’s alto shone on Primrose Star, Cashman’s tenor shines brightly on For Trane & Wayne. ­Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane are two of Glenn Cashman’s biggest influences according to the track notes. The influences may be there however I much prefer Cashman’s tenor sound to that of Wayne Shorter. Cashman has a wonderful control of the tenor and its nuances.

The title track Things Are Getting Better certainly should make you want to get up and dance – or at least move in your seat. The hard-swinging, medium tempo romp showcases Babad first with Czach following with a nice solo and punctuated break. Cashman weaves nicely through the changes before Hughes takes a final bass solo. The ending breaks feature the same four in order before the final unison and fermata.

The bossa nova Green Bananas and the fast-paced Take the Coltrane round out the 12 tracks on Things Are Getting Better by Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project. The latter part of the tune is highlighted by a spirited, unaccompanied duel by Glenn Cashman and Bruce Babad on saxophones.

Reviewing a cd such as Things Are Getting Better by Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project is an easy task. It has been such a joy to listen to these wonderful arrangements featuring the talented cast assembled by Luther Hughes. Do yourself a favor. Run out and buy this one!