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Friday, August 26, 2011

Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans: Know What I Mean?

The opening strains of this classic Riverside album are pure-pure delicacy that could only come from the fingers of Bill Evans. His chiming piano, playing the original “Waltz for Debby”, is something that brings to mind a particular kind of jazz—intimate, sweet, contemplative. Then, 1:07 in, Percy Heath’s bass burbles downward and Connie Kay’s brushes start working against a snare—and the ripe sound of Cannonball Adderley’s alto sax just pops into the tune. Yummmmm.

This tune alone—the most swinging of all the “Debby”s ever recorded and one that is my all-time favorite example of a waltz suddenly busting into swinging 4/4—makes Know What I Mean? a classic, must-have jazz album. Read my full review HERE.

Of course, Adderley and Evans played together in the classic Miles Davis band—the one that recorded Kind of Blue, no less—so they were familiar with this particular sweet-and-sour set up.  And this simpatico teamwork shows throughout this disc.  There are lovely ballads on which Adderley nevertheless finds a blues strain, and there are skipping swingers on which Evans is perfectly at home.

The modal tune "Know What I Mean?" is particularly intriguing, with Adderley at home while playing flutters against a set of scales, then a whispered piano solo in that mode. At the mid-point, however, Kay sets up a jagged Latin groove for Cannonball’s solo, shifting gears into straight 4/4 swing only to find Evans soloing over the bolder groove as well. The shift back to brushes and ballad tempo is sudden and dramatic.

It's great, then, to hear the alternate take of this tune included on this reissue. This unused take moves into the groove section much sooner and finds Adderley stretching out more expansively and then re-entering over the groove just as the rhythm section switches into a bit of double-time 12/8. Clearly the band was fooling around with this arrangement in the studio, and it’s great to hear part of the creative process here—with the unused take making more sense, I think, of this shape-shifting tune.

The whole disc contains a bounty of great music.  If you love jazz but don't know this album: stop reading.  Get it now.

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