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by Mark Keresman
Jazz Inside Magazine - Mar 2011

Arguably two of the most popular jazz bands of the 1960s were the John Coltrane Quartet and the Cannonball Adderley Quintet (sometimes Sextet),and both remain beloved to older and younger jazz fans to this day. As you likely surmised by their name, this band helmed by bassist Luther Hughes plays the music of Adderley and Coltrane, with the addition of originals inspired by both. Fortunately, Hughes (and company) doesn’t strive to emulate the distinctive sound of either icon but they DO capture the irresistible joie de vive of Cannonball’s classic combos.

This set kicks off with a blustery, glad ‘n’ greasy hunk of blues/gospel-drenched hard bop, “Jive Samba.” The saxophonist cook and sizzle like a hot August barbeque grill and pianist Ed Czach plays with a sparing wiliness recalling soul-jazz icon Bobby Timmons at his peak, and Hughes and drummer Paul Kreibich nail down a solid, sprightly groove. “Primrose Star” is a sumptuous old-school blues-rich ballad, based on the Adderley Quintet’s version of “Stars Fell On Alabama” – whatever time of day it is when you listen to this, it’ll always feel like half past midnight. The version of “Softly As…” is inspired by Coltrane’s Live At the Village Vanguard version, has some of the restless “cry” of early ‘60s New Thing jazz but it has more of the confident Adderley swagger. The genial, springtime-in-New York-sounding “Blue Daniel” (composed by the late Frank Rosolino but performed by Adderley) has a perky melodic hook vaguely (or not-so-vaguely) recalling the theme song for TV’s The Odd Couple. Both sax-gents really generate heat on “Take the Coltrane,” hotly twisting and wailing ‘round each other’s lines, and drummer Paul Kreibich gets to tip his hi-hat to Elvin Jones with a curt, punchy solo. Throughout Hughes himself in self-effacing – very few solos and when he’s in the spotlight, it’s short and sweet, his tone soft yet rippling and wiry.

Things Are Getting Better is a refreshing, invigorating jazz platter – while it’s in no way innovative, it sidesteps the déjà vu/been-there, done-that and overly somber/capital-S seriousness snags plaguing many jazz albums over the past several years. These hepcats are clearly enthusiastic by the music of their forebears and it carries into the sessions themselves. This is jazz that’s immediate, going right for your heart, gut, and whichever foot you tap in time with. I like to think the Cannonball would be proud.