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Luther Hughes & The Cannonball-Coltrane Project – Things Are Getting Better – Primrose Lane Music
"Things Are Getting Better" is a great album of straight ahead jazz."
by Tim Taylor

Luther Hughes & The Cannonball-Coltrane Project – Things Are Getting Better – Primrose Lane Music  PLM -014, 68:25 *****:

(Luther Hughes – leader & bass; Glenn Cashman – tenor sax; Bruce Babad – alto sax; Ed Czach – piano; Paul Kreibich –drums & Percussion)

Acoustic bassist Luther Hughes received his training at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music and Long Beach City College.  He has a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Long Beach.  Luther taught at Cal State Long Beach, Golden West College and the Musicians Institute.  He teaches at Saddleback College and Cal State Fullerton.  He began his career in music in the 1960’s.  Luther plays both electric and acoustic bass.  His career over the years has him playing with many of the top names of jazz such as Gene Harris, Mundell Lowe, Joe Henderson, Carmen MacRae, Willie Bobo, Horace Silver, Joe Pass, Ernestine Anderson and so many more.  He has performed on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and appeared in several episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine.  He is a session bassist for TV, records, movies and more.  Luther has hosted 2 radio programs on KKJZ FM 88.1 (formerly known as KLON) in Long Beach, California.

The Cannonball-Coltrane Project (CCP) was an idea born from Luther listening to the LP “The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago”.  It was the only time Cannonball and Coltrane appeared together except with Miles Davis.  The group evolved into paying tribute to Cannonball and Coltrane and went further to write and arrange music with the inspiration from them and the directions they took in jazz.  Luther went about putting together an ensemble that gave their first performance in Southern California in 2002 and were a hit with the audience.  The group has released four CDs and a DVD concert since 2005 and indicates they feel it is their best work.  I became acquainted with their first album when they interviewed on air at the jazz radio station in Portland, Oregon just after its release at the time they made an appearance at “The Cave” in Portland.

Things Are Getting Better is a great album of straight ahead jazz.  CCP has captured the Cannonball-Coltrane sound without being just another copycat group.  They swing and groove through these tracks in a manner that is joyous and brilliant.  Five of the tracks are well known standards associated with Cannonball and Coltrane.  The other seven tracks are composed and arranged by various members of CCP in a style consistent with the Cannonball-Coltrane sound.  I was immediately sitting up and smiling at their treatment of “Jazz Samba” (Nat Adderley composer) giving it a five star “Wow”.  It was arranged by Luther.  The two saxes work their way through the whole album playing off each other and are a dream to hear harmonizing and unison playing.  The whole group plays tight and right on. 

“Glo in the Dark” is a lyrical, beautiful waltz.  “McCoy” is a tribute to McCoy Tyner who was a pianist with John Coltrane.  “Primrose Star” is a ballad-like slow tune composed and arranged by Bruce Babad featuring him on alto sax.  “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” was a tune recorded by Cannonball.  “Sunset at Hermosa” is a tribute samba to the sun setting at Hermosa Beach, California where CCP plays often at The Lighthouse Café.  “Blue Daniel” was composed by Frank Rosolino and was recorded by Cannonball on his album “Live at the Lighthouse”.  “Samba Para Um Dia Chuvoso” has a cuica at the beginning and drummer Paul Kreibich shows great support with his latin percussion.  “Trane and Wayne “is a tribute to Coltrane and Wayne Shorter.  Another Cannonball composition “Things are Getting Better” swings nicely.  The album finishes off with Duke Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane” reminiscent of the tune recorded by the Duke and John Coltrane.

Things are Getting Better swings, is lyrical and an outstanding album from five musicians who know jazz from top to bottom.  The sound is great.  The liner notes are actually song notes contributed by all the members of CCP.  Their website is for a lot of great information on this group.

TrackList: Jive Samba; Glo in the Dark; McCoy; Primrose Star; Softly as in a Morning Sunrise; Sunset at Hermosa; Blue Daniel; Samba Para Um Dia Chuvoso; Trane and Wayne; Things are Getting Better; Green Bananas; Take the Coltrane