I first heard CANNONBALL ADDERLEY QUINTET IN CHICAGO sometime during my high school years, when i had just started to get into straight ahead jazz. up to that time, my tastes were a little more “contemporary”: Grover Washington Jr., David Sanborn, etc. i had just begun checking out Charlie Parker and trying to play some of his solos from the OMNIBOOK. well, i pulled this record out of my dad’s collection, attracted to the very cool cover, and put it on. if you’ve heard “Limehouse Blues”, you can imagine my shock when i experienced Adderley’s solo break. damn! no disrespect to Parker, who is one of Adderley’s stylistic fathers, but i never heard a saxophone swing so hard. his sound was so big and round and brilliant. his articulation was so precise. what an incredible technique, rifling out those 8th note runs at such a breakneck speed. i just had enough time to pick my jaw up off the floor when this OTHER guy comes in on tenor. while Adderley was playing a more or less conventional bop line, Coltrane was playing this other stuff, dealing with the harmonic material he was exploring on records like GIANTS STEPS and COLTRANE JAZZ. while Adderley blew over an F7 chord during the first four bars of his solo, Coltrane superimposed a high resolution harmonic sequence over those same four measures that eventually resolved to the next chord in the progression proper, D7. you could say that Adderley operated on the molecular level while Coltrane worked on a more rareified, atomic level. two very different sounds and approaches, set against each other, and on top of the fine rhythm section of Wynton Kelly (who is consistently incredible and funky), Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers, all of whom were members of the great Miles Davis Quintet at the time. this record was so eye opening to me. it really showed me how varied and personal improvisational styles could be. Adderley’s 8th note has a pronounced lope. he really digs into the beat with a very extroverted and jubilant swing. even on a song like “Grand Central”, which is in a minor key, and has a heavy feeling to it, the energy of his sound is very bright and (for lack of a better word) “happy”. Coltrane’s 8th note, on the other hand, is flatter and more streamlined. he often employs sweeping scalar runs and arpeggios that soar high above the rhythm section and move out of the regular 8th note pulse. he makes use of whole tone and harmonic minor scales that add a mysterious, almost atonal quality to his lines. his sound is at once an urgent wail, a cry or a roar. being an alto player and a jazz neophyte at the time, i naturally gravitated to Adderley, whose style was less cryptic than Coltrane’s. everything about the way Cannonball played appealed to me. he was a really well studied, hip, soulful sax player. Cannonball Adderley came off to me as a musician who found his groove pretty early in life and was content to remain there- now, don’t get me wrong, i don’t think there is anything wrong with that because he was an excellent player who could hold his own next to anyone (he was in the baddest band in the land when he made this recording fer chrissakes!) but Coltrane was different. i got the feeling that he was and would never be satisfied, that he was always trying to move forward. i started to revere Coltrane as i got deeper into music and started to understand what he was dealing with, and began to understand why he profoundly influenced so many, not only as a musician, but as a man trying to find something, attempting to transcend…

“Grand Central”, a song written by Coltrane, is 36 bars long with an AABA form. the form is a little peculiar because it begins at the end, the last measure of the song, which is used as a pick up bar. everything makes sense if you think of the song as beginning on the F min7 chord. the last A section is 12 bars long rather than eight bars, like the other A sections are. the melody is played over a progression of descending ii-Vs and lands on Bb minor:

one bar break… [| G min7(b5) C7(b9) |]

| F min7 | Bb min7 Eb7 | Ab min7 Db7 | F# min7 B7 |

| Bb min7 | B 7(b5) | Bb min7 | G min7(b5) C7(b9) |

the chord in the sixth measure bothers me a bit. sometimes i hear a Dominant sound and other times i hear a Major sound. even though the melody uses the natural 7th, i wrote it as a Dominant chord because of what i hear from the rhythm section and the soloists (actually, Cannonball and Coltrane utilize both the Major 7th and Dominant 7th at times)-(why does the Real Book list the chords in measures 5 through 7: F min7, Gb7, F min7?). the second A section is essentially the same as the first:

| F min7 | Bb min7 Eb7 | Ab min7 Db7 | F# min7 B7 |

| Bb min7 | B 7(b5) | Bb min7 | Bb min7 |

the first six bars of the bridge is a static 7th chord (perhaps, because of the melody, you could say that the progression moves between a 7sus4 and a 7 chord with the same root). this is followed by a four bar progression typical of Coltrane in that period. the saxophones have a little exchange over the bridge with Coltrane on a riff and Adderley playing another riff that has a more improvised feel to it. the horns don’t play the opening break coming out of the bridge into the last A section:

| B7 | B7 | B7 | B7 |

| B7 | B7 | Bb min7 E7 | A maj7 C7(b9) |

the final A section:

| F min7 | Bb min7 Eb7 | Ab min7 Db7 | F# min7 B7 |

| Bb min7 | B 7(b5) | Bb min7 | B 7(b5) |

| Bb min7 | B 7(b5) | Bb min7 | G min7(b5) C7(b9) |


the thing that’s a little confusing here is that unlike the one bar break that the begins the song, the solo breaks are two bars long. Cannonball is first up to bat… out of the park.

i can’t say enough about Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, two giants in the world of music. i’ll try to feature more material from both in coming posts…


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26. December 2009 by james
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