Nat Adderly Jr., Lil Greewood, Theodore Arthur Jr. & Sandra Booker

*Mobile, AL — There were five people in the multicolored, carpeted hallway. Two ticket takers, a security guard and a slight, bespectacled young man in black who was looking at his hands, or rather, looking at his fingers which were curled in towards his palms, and me. Nods were exchanged and he went into the ballroom.

Minutes later, I followed.

The Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile ballroom had been transformed to assume the feel of a jazz nightclub. The stage was draped in black and white; tables topped with red and white linen and roses added to the ambiance.

Splashes of blue from strategically placed pin spots highlighted the walls. High-tech revolving lights of purple and gold (Mobile’s Mardi Gras colors) created an aura of anticipation for what was to come.

After a few words with ‘iJazz [email protected]’ producer Ron Bookman, he asked me, “Have you met Nat?” He meant Nat Adderley, Jr., the evening’s headliner. Adderley, an accomplished keyboard player and arranger, bears the birthright of a famed jazz family: his father, Nat Adderley, was a composer and jazz cornet and trumpet player, while his uncle, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, was a jazz alto saxophonist. The reason for him looking at his fingers became clear. They were his gear for the debut event in the iJazz series.

Following a tribute to jazz legend, Lil Greenwood (vocalist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra for 14 years), the clock struck show time. The Theodore Arthur, Jr. Quartet (Arthur, sax; Shad Collins, organ; L. C. Lyman, drums; Jerome Bryant, percussion) opened the show with a six-song set. Included were a moving cover of Charlie Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes” and a rousing version of “Let The Good Times Roll” that featured Arthur on vocals.

After a brief intermission, vocalist/songwriter Sandra Booker opened her set with “On A Clear Day”. Between scatting, vamping, shimmying, trading licks with the band, and stories with the audience, Booker delivered a solid, crowd-pleasing performance. The New Orleans native/California transplant was supported by a first class band – Jeremy Manasia (piano), Tal Roneh (bass), Charles Ruggiero (drums) and guest percussionist, Jerome Bryant. She closed out with two originals, “Café du Monde” and “Laissez Les Bon Temp Roullier” from her album “When Love Happens: The Loving Day Concert”.

“A Performance of the Songbook of Nat & Cannonball Adderley” launched with “Fiddler On The Roof” followed by Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine”, both crisp and to the point. During the Nat Adderley, Jr. Quintet’s soulful rendition of “Autumn Leaves”, one concertgoer was moved to the point of sharing her Sleepless in Seattle-like moans with the rest of us. The quintet (Adderley on piano, cornet player Longineu Parsons, saxophonist Diron Holloway, bassist Ricky Ravello and drummer Vaughn Hall) attacked, teased and blazed through a straight ahead jazz set of nine tunes that also included two Cannonball signatures, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “The Work Song”.

Adderley closed the evening with a special request, an unplugged solo performance of “A House Is Not A Home”, a number he played often while carrying out his duties as musical director for Luther Vandross. The audience clamored for “more” as the house lights came up to signal the end of a magical evening. As he walked down the steps from the stage, Nat was looking at his fingers, curled towards his palm. Would like to think he was thanking them for a job well done.

The entire concert was videotaped “live” by Corredo Productions for re-broadcast to a national audience.

{Carmen Brown has been an on-air jazz radio personality for over 32 years. She currently hosts “Smooth Jazz Sundays” on WDLT-FM, 98.3 in Mobile, Alabama.}