With Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Paul Chambers, James Cobb, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly
00:00 So What
09:18 Freddie Freeloader
18:56 Blue In Green
24:33 All Blues
36:13 Flamenco Sketches
If I only had one album, and it was this LP, I would be set. It is timeless, a masterpiece, you are dropped into an inclusive group of cool cats having the best conversations. It flows like small waves over the beach on the perfect day (not too hot nor too cold) with a light breeze.
Recorded on 2 March and 22 April 1959, it was made on the cheap – a few thousand dollars contractual advance to Davis, union scale payment to six sidemen – Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on alto saxophone, John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums – nine hours studio time, four reels of tape and a piano tuner’s fee. Amazingly, this album transcends time, is played by a beloved cast of talented musicians, each contributing their part but not overplaying, there isn’t any flaunting by anyone. It is tight. The editing of the album is flawless. There is a Legacy 50 year edition on which you can hear the edits, retakes, stops and restarts. The comments by the players are funny.
You can play this album to relax from a stressful day, play it to key yourself up for a big moment, play it to impress on your friends as what you consider masterpiece jazz, play it as background music, or turn it on in the morning while you drink your first cup of coffee. It is the music to manifest your day/week/life by. The album is romantic, melancholic and fluidly melodic. The music on this album fills whatever space it is granted.
Musically, most of the jazz on this album isn’t based on chords, it is based on Modes and scales, and it is a much more open network of harmonic relationships which fits perfect with this combination of players and their melodic inventiveness. This was a new territory at the time. “So What” is probably best-known album track. An AABA form song. I love the tempo it is played at on this album. It’s too cool for school. Also, they took an unusual tack: bassist Paul Chambers states the opening melody. “Freddie Freeloader,” is the album’s only conventional blues song. Wynton Kelly sits in on this track instead of Bill Evans. It is a happy, swinging chordal song. “All Blues” is based on unusual scales. It is one of those times when something that sounds simple takes a great deal of finesse from each player to make it so. In the key of G, “All Blues” is a 12-bar blues in 6/8 time with a fairly basic progression comprised entirely of 7th chords. “Flamenco Sketches” opens with one of the most beautiful trumpet solos by Miles Davis and is based upon five scales or modes, and each musician improvises in turn upon all five in order.
“See,” wrote Davis in his autobiography, “If you put a musician in a place where he has to do something different from what he does all the time . . . that’s where great art and music happens.”
I would suppose that is because they are creating this jazz newly, in 1959, and yet, it is as fresh today and every time I play it.