Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans

Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans

Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans

Know What I Mean?


This animal so quaintly called “Modern Jazz” covers more territory than you might expect. From the minimalist musings of Chet Baker to the gospel-tinged Ella Fitzgerald to the solitary piano of Thelonious Monk, there are songs for nearly every occasion.

Today we cover the swank and sophisticated ballroom sax sound of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. Accompanied by the versatile Bill Evans on piano, he begins with “Waltz for Debby.” Its light piano line could serve as the leitmotif for Cinderella or some innocent chanteuse in a Cole Porter comedy. After a few bars, the hopeful and happy sound of Adderley’s sax takes over as men in tuxedos dance with heiresses showing of their jewels of all types. “Goodbye” takes a slower turn — adjectives like “introspective” and “smoky” apply once the Yacht Set returns to Newport and the street-wise Private Eyes, gun molls and petty enforcers arrive to relax after a hard nights work. “Who Cares? (Take 5)” picks up the pace as the sun rises. The night owls fall asleep and the decent people commute to work on ferries and subways and in bright yellow taxi cabs. Life is good, the depression and the war are over, color TV and suburbia prove the world is only getting better. We move on to “Venice” — it’s structurally similar to “Goodbye” both in tempo and chords, and we are at the very core of Adderley’s style. Have we figured out the enigma of this album? “Toy” is upbeat, “Elsa” slow, but then “Nancy (With the Laughing Face)” trips us up by refusing to pick up the tempo. Adderley holds off until the last cut and then drops a Latin bombshell with “Know What I Mean? (Take 7).”

That’s the end of the original release, with the remainder of the disc holding alternate takes on “Who Cares?,” “Toy,” and “Know What I Mean? (Take 12).” Maybe I do know what he means — while this record may perpetuate a Mad Men audio cliché, it’s all starting to make a weird sense.

Concord Music Group:

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