Monday 6 April 2020

Somethin' Else to listen to

Cannonball Adderly - Somethin' Else (1959)

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"Is that what you wanted, Alfred?"
Recently, I've been listening to a lot of Miles Davis, and this led me on to Cannonball Adderley.

I like the fact that Miles Davis allows Cannonball to really shine here. Often Miles sticks to the main melody giving Adderley the chance to deviate and solo in a more dramatic way. Miles' understated performance is key to the whole album.
Is this a masterpiece?

Autumn Leaves

Starts with lovely echoing piano notes and then Miles Davis' perfectly noted trumpet plays the melody. Adderley comes in after about 2 minutes, immediately stretching the melody. It has what I would feel is that 'cool' jazz sound: walking bass from Sam Jones, hissing ride cymbal from the masterful Art Blakey and busy but not fussy horn playing. Davis was already a big star at this point helping out one of his sidemen. The sound of Miles' trumpet is one of the things that drew me into jazz. There is a lovely, bluesy lick that both he and Cannonball play in this piece which just feels so right, and Miles' solo is quite wonderful.
In the final 2 minutes there is a lovely, piano led coda that returns to the mysterious latin-like groove that starts the song. Hank Jones on the piano, here. Looking through my records I only have one album by him: Lazy Afternoon from 1989 (will post about it someday) so it looks like I have to start delving into the work of someone else soon.

Love For Sale

The melodic intro suddenly 'pings' into a shuffling and sexy groove. Again, Miles starts off squeezing out the melody notes over a beat that makes me want to samba (or is it rumba? I know nothing about these dances, it's probably a foxtrot for all I know). Cannonball plays much faster than Miles, adding an extra zip to the tune with his runs up and down the scales and the drumming soon falls into line. As a jazz novice I love how far away from the melody the sax seems to wander, and how the trumpet comes back, restrained, to the original tune. This is a real 'standard' with versions by Dexter Gorden, Sidney Bechet and an upbeat version by Miles own sextet on the '58 session album. This version contrasts with the Davis sextet by being slightly slower, which is necessarily better, but the piano lines are what make it for me. Little riffs on with the left hand makes it so danceable.

Somethin' Else

No need for a groovy intro - this swings right in - sax and trumpet talking to each other, swapping notes, until Miles takes over with a great solo taking in some nice high notes but never too busy.
As Cannonball plays his solo the tune is moving along quite briskly and there's a wonderful moment about 4 minutes in when Art Blakey does this kind of double time rat-a-tat with his high hat. The sax never loses its stride.
My favourite moments are when the two horns battle away ('trade licks' they usually say in books and magazines). Not sure I understand enough about music to enjoy the piano solo here - I would prefer more notes and less chords!

One for Daddy-O

A mix of delicious piano and side-by-side horns brings this one in and it then blasts with a bluesy Cannonball solo that I just love.
The bass (Sam Jones) picks out a quite perfect line here, I love the more metallic high notes that pop up from time to time. Miles' solo is fantastic too. After my moaning about the piano on the last track, Hank Jones plays just what I want on this one, fingers snaking up and down the keyboards, slurring notes everywhere. By the time the piece returns to its main theme every musician has shown their talent and ability perfectly.
"Is that what you wanted, Alfred?" is Davis to producer Alfred Lion, who had a measly few paragraphs written about him on Wikipedia which is a bit odd considering he co-founded Blue Note.
Alfred Lion and Hank Moberley (found at Times of Israel)

Dancing In The Dark

Smoother, melodic, time for a slow dance. Adderley is so expressive during the opening bars it makes me want to weep. The descending scales are blown so perfectly to these inexperienced ears - this is Cannonball's track.

Alison's Uncle

A double horn blast into the main theme and everyone's up and at it on this one, which just barrels along. This was recorded in 1958 but not released, what a shame! And how great we do get to hear it, because both horns play great solos, especially Miles. Art Blakey gets a few nice solos on this one; I'm not too keen on drum solos but these are nice and quick and set the tune up for a bopping finale!

Somethin' Else get a showing in the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings Core Collection. Adderley's most famous record, but not necessarily his best. For me, that goes to The Black Messiah.

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