If you were to look at any list of the greatest jazz albums of all-time, "Somethin' Else" would rest comfortably in the top ten or twenty, and for good reason. It's nearly perfect.
It all begins with the personnel. This is Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's show. He was only thirty years old when he sat for these recordings in the spring of 1958, and only four years before that he had been earning his living as a band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His lilting alto saxophone weaves in and out of the tracks here, just as comfortable on the Side 1 standards as on the original compositions of Side 2.
And who's that on trumpet? Miles Davis. It's hard to come up with an analogy for this. I've written before in this space about the collaborative nature of jazz and the willingness of legendary artists to share billing with each other in pursuit of something beautiful. Perhaps it's something similar to what we see now in the NBA with superstars gravitating towards one another as they pursue not just championship rings but the opportunity to play alongside fellow geniuses.
Miles was already a superstar in 1958, with the landmark album Birth of the Cool behind him, and just a few weeks after this session he'd record Milestones; a year later he would reunite with Adderley and a handful of other legends to record his greatest record, Kind of Blue. (I will accept no argument on this.)
On drums we've got Art Blakey, who tops many lists as the greatest jazz drummer ever to hold a pair of sticks. The point, I suppose, is this -- the people on this record can play.
We've seen teams of great individuals that can never seem to get things together on the court, but that isn't the case here. As difficult as it might be to believe, as great as the parts are, the sum is still greater. There are countless sub-genres that make up the spectrum of jazz, and this record represents a merging -- or at least a meeting -- of two of my favorites, bebop (Adderley) and cool jazz (Miles) . In his typically thorough notes on the back of the album cover, Leonard Feather points out that "Both Cannonball and Miles agree that there has been far too much labeling of jazzmen, that there is an almost limitless degree of overlapping between schools, and that what counts is not the branding of the music but the cohesive quality of their concerted efforts." Indeed. Whether you want to call it cool or bebop or even cool bebop, there's no denying the greatness of this record.
All of which brings us to the physical record that I pulled from the sleeve this week. There's a great internet source that I've discovered called Discogs that allows me to catalogue my collection and learn about the myriad different editions of these records that were printed. (I can't imagine I'll ever sell any of these records, but the site also provides a rough valuation of any collection a user creates.)
According to information gained from Discogs and a few Google searches, I'm fairly confident that my father purchased this record in 1959. The original was released in mono format in 1958, but this is the stereo version. (If you're interested in following me down the rabbit hole, here's a deep dive into the verification process for a collector's item like this. Near mint copies of the original 1958 release sell for thousands of dollars; I'm guessing my copy is probably worth a couple hundred.)
But there is no price tag for this record, either figuratively or literally. Some of the albums in my father's collection still carry a sticker in the corner, usually showing a price of around $4.99. You could tell the same story about a baseball card or a painting or a Ford Mustang, but I still can't imagine that my father could ever have imagined that a circular piece of vinyl in a large cardboard envelope purchased for five dollars in 1959 would one day be worth so much. I'd also guess that there's no way back then he'd ever have guessed that it would be worth even more to his son.
Love for Sale
One for Daddy-O
Dancing in the Dark