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Monday, October 25, 2004

Pick of the week

The little more than a year between Miles Davis' classic "Milestones" and "Kind of Blue" sessions has to be one of the more rewarding in jazz. Some of my favorite jazz recordings of all time were made in this brief period. Namely:

Milestones (February and March 1958)

Somethin' Else (March 1958)

Miles and Monk at Newport (June 1958)

Porgy and Bess (July and August 1958)

Miles 58 (May and September 1958)

Jazz at the Plaza (September 1958)

Kind of Blue (March and April 1959)

This was the period when Miles Davis was transitioning from his original great quintet which featured Coltrane on sax, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on the drums. Over the course of a few months Bill Evans would play a couple of historically crucial sessions, Cannonball Adderley would join as a second saxophone player and Jimmy Cobb would replace Philly Joe Jones. The lineup, which began exploring so called modal jazz, proved unstable but managed to cut perhaps the greatest jazz record of all time: Kind of Blue. As Miles himself would write in his autobiography "I don't think any group ever had two saxophone players who could compare with Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane."

Sometimes lost in the mix is the Cannonball Adderley Blue Note recording "Somethin' Else." I say lost in the mix because it is a recording credited to Cannonball. However, and while I am taking nothing away from Cannonball I believe this record is in actuality a Miles Davis project. From the selection of tunes which includes "Love for Sale" of which Miles led his own recording a mere two months later, to Miles in his patented gruff manner saying right after the performance of One for Daddy-O "Is that what you wanted Alfred?" (i.e., Blue Note label chief Alfred Lion), to "Autumn Leaves" which is all about Miles, to his decision to sit out the fifth track as recounted in Leonard Feather's liner notes: "'I made him play this,' says Miles, 'because I remembered hearing Sarah Vaughan do it like his.'", to titling the album after the Miles original recorded especially for this album (and which Miles never recorded again), etc.

How did Miles Davis come to record this album anyways? After all this must be the first session he did not get top billing in a while and the last one I can think of. Miles writes in his autobiography (after mentioning how he and Cannonball used to hang out as opposed to Coltrane who was "..only really concerned about playing his music and growing as a musician"), and it truly is amazin how little he has to say about it: "Back in New York, Cannonball, who had signed a deal to do a record for Blue Note, asked me to play on the date, which I did as a favor. The record was called 'Something Else' and was very nice."

Curiously enough the spines on the album read "Cannonball Adderley - Miles Davis." Another interesting fact about this record is that in addition to Miles providing support, Art Blakey plays the drums in one of his last appearances as a session musician.

review of record to follow

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