When one takes a look at Cannonball Adderley’s 1958 Somethin’ Else, it’s hard not to be overcome with copious amounts of jazz enthusiasm. With Julian on sax, Miles Davis on trumpet, Hank Jones tickling the ivories, Sam Jones (no relation) on bass, and Art Blakey doing his thing on the drums, the line-up is about as remarkable as it gets.
And boy, that line-up doesn’t disappoint. Hammering out one golden classic after another, Adderley’s record teems with extraordinary solos, taut rhythm, and incredible musicianship. Somethin’ Else is, of course, something else! When one puts together a collection of great jazz works, this record is always somewhere near the middle.
The real aroma comes with the relationship between Davis and Adderley. The pair forms the quintessential front line and their presence alone would be enough to launch this baby into the stratosphere. Their ability to play off one another, to counter each other’s phrases with alternating long and short blasts of sweet heat, is unequalled. And to add Jones, Blakey, and Jones on top of it all…well that’s just all kinds of wonderful.
Somethin’ Else starts with “Autumn Leaves.” Hank and Sam lay down a mouth-watering little groove with piano and bass, while the horns leisurely and persuasively introduce themselves to the tune. Miles starts the theme and is followed by Adderley. A beautiful ad-lib interlude sparkles towards the middle, while Blakey’s drumming keeps time without being showy.
“Love for Sale,” a Cole Porter tune, opens with floral piano and weaves into a tight call-and-response section with Miles and Julian. Latin tones permeate the number c/o Blakey’s drums.
The title track teems with more fearless call-and-response between the two horns. Blakey works the tempo gracefully, shifting gears with a textbook transition. The tune’s burly, plucky tone is accented by Hank’s piano ad-lib and a chunky groove that charges with Davis’ great riffs.
Nat Adderley’s “One for Daddy-O” rolls with funky blues spirit, demonstrating once and for all that Miles Davis can play the blues and can excel at it like he does damn near everything else. Dedicated to Chicago DJ Daddy-O Doyle, this track owes a lot to its stirring beat. Julian lays out a ridiculous solo, thickening things up with double-time statements of intent.
The final track on the original recording of Somethin’ Else, “Dancing in the Dark,” is a great closer because of its lazy, jazzy feel. It’s really Cannonball’s tune, as his excellent alto stretches out all over the Davis-suggested piece.
Somethin’ Else is a marvellous collaboration between several exceptional artists. The extent to which Davis contributed in terms of song selection and leadership is often disputed, but the musical magic contained on this recording is so superior and so heroic that it hardly seems to matter as to who’s crew this was.
Davis and Adderley would make beautiful music together again with Miles’ renowned Kind of Blue in ’59, but Somethin’ Else stands as a confident and vigorous statement all its own.