Julian “Cannonball” Adderley burst upon the jazz scene in 1955, sitting in with Oscar Pettiford’s group at the Bohemia in New York and almost instantly being hailed as the “new Bird”. While Adderley had certainly listened to and incorporated Charlie Parker’s work into his playing by this time, the foundation for his funky, graceful alto style came from careful listening to the work of Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter, as well as tenor players like Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and, of course, Lester Young.
Adderly worked as a band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from 1948 until shortly after his appearance at the Bohemia, when he and brother Nat formed a quintet and began to tour. Julian broke that group up in ’57 to join Miles Davis’ group, and in March of 1958 recorded the album Somethin’ Else as leader with Davis, pianist Hank Jones, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Art Blakey. Adderley learned much from his involvement with Miles, not only from Davis himself, but from saxophonist John Coltrane, who was also a member of the sextet.
Cannonball’s playing on classic Davis sessions like Milestones reveal a new discipline in the use of space and silence as well as a more adventurous harmonic ear. By the time of the Somethin’ Else session, Cannonball’s sound had considerably more nuance, with darker tones and more brooding solos. Nonetheless, the Parker influence continued to shine, and the whole session has a sense of relaxation that results in music that is truly joyous.
The album begins with an incredible reading of the standard Autumn Leaves, which kicks off with a fairly long introduction in a minor key that is a precursor of the sounds that would eminate from Miles’ upcoming 1959 Kind of Blue album, which also featured Adderley. The piece sets the tone for the album, with nice solo work from Cannonball, Davis, and pianist Hank Jones, ending on another minor key theme that sets this arrangement off from the many on this tune that have been recorded.
After an adlib piano intro from Jones, Miles states the theme in Love For Sale, using a muted and stark tone. Adderley wears his Bird influence on his sleeve on this track, playing a solo that is very evocative of Parker and could even be mistaken for him by some listeners. However, Cannonball’s distinctive tone and strong sense of thematic development are in evidence and help to distinguish the solo as his. Davis’ Somethin’ Else is a 12-bar form, but it is far from traditional blues in its harmonic structure. It creates a joyful feeling from the beginning, then allows the soloists to expand on that feeling in a complex harmonic environment. Hank Jones plays a great solo utilizing the block-chord style that is both subtle and completely swinging.
One for Daddy-o is vintage Cannonball, utilizing the straightforward funky blues that he could so effectively use to capture and audience and take it to many places it would normally have been unwilling to go. Adderley demonstrates the same inventiveness with the blues format as Charlie Parker. Davis’ solo is a wonderfully heartfelt yet sophisticated take on the blues changes, demonstrating everything there is to love about this masterful improviser. Jones also turns in a nice, though brief, bop-blues piano solo that is just right for the tune.
Dancing In the Dark is sheer beauty, and demonstrates Adderley’s very adept approach to the ballad, another hallmark of his playing. Here some of the tenor influences, particularly Hawkins and Webster, come through, not to mention the ghost of Johnny Hodges. The orginal Blue Note CD release featured an extra track Alison’s Uncle, but that has been replaced on the remaster by a different bonus track, Bangoon.