Since Nat Adderley doesn't get around much anymore--not, at least, in this part of the country--the Florida-based cornetist was a particularly welcome visitor to Concerts by the Sea, where he began a brief run Thursday (closing Sunday), heading a group of local musicians.
The occasion was a double reunion. Roy McCurdy, the drummer, played for a decade in the quintet of the late Cannonball Adderley. Victor Feldman, the pianist, was another colleague of Nat Adderley in an earlier incarnation of that unit.
With the dependable Andy Simpkins on bass and a versatile reed man, Bob Sheppard, on tenor, alto and soprano saxes, the five men took a little while to settle in but were in full swing after a few numbers. Adderley, who has been on vacation for a few weeks, seemed hesitant at times, although his muted solo on "Bye Bye Black Bird" found him tackling the racehorse tempo without problems.
Often compared to the early, pre-electronic Miles Davis, he has retained the characteristics that brought him to fame in his brother's band. Cannonball also was a witty, engaging speaker; Nat's badinage in his introductions had some of the same offbeat charm.
The ballads, with Sheppard's tenor showcased on "You Don't Know What Love Is" and Simpkins in prime form for "My Foolish Heart," reflected most convincingly the maturity of all hands. Feldman, one of the unsung heroes of jazz, brought a smile to Adderley's face when he soloed on "St. Thomas" and the blues "Unit Seven." The latter, which was Cannonball's closing theme for many years, served the same purpose here, with Sheppard in fluent form on alto sax.
As Adderley commented after one number, "That was creative, and I could still understand it." The same remark could have been applied to everything played by this confident combo. It was a pleasure to hear uncompromising jazz in the Redondo Beach room; however, fusion sounds will be back again Thursday, when Ronnie Laws takes over the bandstand.