Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans - Know What I Mean? (Riverside, 1961)

It may seem like an unusual combination for a bluesy alto saxophonist like Cannonball Adderley to play with an impressionistic pianist like Bill Evans. But they played together on the epochal Miles Davis album Kind of Blue, and putting them with a class rhythm section of Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums allows the group to come together for an interesting set of ballads, standards and originals. Evans own "Waltz for Debby" opens for unaccompanied piano, allowing the lilting melody to hang in space before kicking into gear as the bass and drums enter, clearing space for Adderley to hang a clear toned solo at a medium tempo. The group swings together graciously and while the music may be a tad polite, there is no doubt that it is from the heart, with bright soloing from Adderley and Evans and a deep pocketed groove from the bass and drums. "Venice" is anchored by subtle bass and drums allowing Adderley to blow in a sultry and smooth fashion, before the band bursts into the joyous hard bop of "Toy" with strong saxophone soloing rippling across the grooving rhythm and crisp piano comping of Evans. The saxophonist gets a lot of space to really stretch out and improvise playing fast and exciting while still remaining an accessible tone and approach. Evans own solo is bright and crisp, buoyed with this propulsive bass and a scaffolding of percussion before everyone returns together for a tight and concise conclusion. The ballad "Elsa" has Evans playing over the most skeletal accompaniment, setting the pace for Adderley's entry with sultry and late night saxophone playing. The music flows together well, everyone is patient, allowing the music to develop at its own pace, with Kay's wonderful brushwork and Heath's anchoring bass keys to this successful performance. Another impressive ballad performance is "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" which presents Adderley's evocative saxophone playing in a bed of delicate brushes and soft piano comping. He plays with the format, inserting quick bursts of notes alongside the longer slower lines, keeping everyone on their toes. This was an interesting and thoughtful album, and the most recent reissue includes several alternate takes if you want to dig deep into the methodology of the music, or you can just enjoy top flight musicians performing at a very high level. Know What I Mean? (OJC Remasters) - amazon.com

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