'Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.'Art Blakey
It's been an emotional day, and I feel tired. I don't have the patience to read a book, or to watch a film on DVD. And if I see anymore Christmas specials on television I'm likely to lose my mind. So I've taken my things upstairs and laid them out next to my bed. I open the window to let in the cool air, and see that it's already dark outside. I feel listless, and decide to pass the time with some music. It doesn't take me long to settle on Cannonball Adderley's Somethin' Else (Blue Note).
The album was recorded in Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack studio back in 1958, and produced by one of Blue Note Records' founding fathers, Alfred Lion. The music is at once evocative and nostalgic, aided by suggestive track titles such as 'Dancing in the Dark', 'Love for Sale' or the impressionistic 'Autumn Leaves'. Adderley's album offers the soundtrack of a bygone era, and evokes everything from the New Jersey suburb to the bustling New York city street. All in glossy black-and-white, of course. And after a stressful day, it's the perfect kind of escapism.
Miles Davis features on trumpet in one of his few appearances on Blue Note records, and dominates many of the pieces. The liner notes suggest that aside from his prominence in the music itself, he had a strong influence on the selections and even the style of playing. To this day, Somethin' Else is considered a high water mark of hard bop and cool jazz, and it's easy to compare it with Miles Davis' masterpiece Kind of Blue (on which Adderley was a key member). And in many ways the trumpet solos guide and delineate the course of the music and the record as a whole.
Hank Jones and Sam Jones feature on piano and bass respectively, and Art Blakey of the Jazz Messengers features on drums. Together, the musicians brought together for Somethin' Else comprise one of the great jazz line-ups of all time.
But, for me, the top billing rightly goes to alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. Following Davis' trumpet solo on the first track, 'Autumn Leaves', Adderley sweeps into a sweet, clean and articulate solo that's both easygoing and lyrical. As a would-be saxophone player, it's easy to claim that I have a biased interest in Adderley's playing; but the simpler truth is that his playing is what attracted me to this music in the first place. His contributions to Kind of Blue may present the very peak of his powers as a musician, but Somethin' Else still offers invention, virtuosity and a keen display of technical skill.
The title track, Somethin' Else, offers a light and breezy interplay between Davis and Adderley, and for me it sums up the very best of what jazz music has to offer. That's not to say that I'm adverse to the occasional free recording from time to time, or that I'm against jazz-funk recordings of the late 1960s and early '70s. But Somethin' Else is a record that typifies a particular brand of traditional jazz, while giving listeners plenty to enjoy and return to on repeated listening.
And at this moment, with the window open and a glass of whiskey on the bedside table, nothing in the world could possibly sound better. It's just the kind of escapism I'm looking for. And it's all in glossy black-and-white, of course.