- A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Blue Note title, and as much a showcase for Miles Davis as it is for Cannonball
- The best sides of this album had as much energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space as any jazz recording we have ever played
- 5 stars: “Both horn players are at their peak of lyrical invention, crafting gorgeous, flowing blues lines.”
- “…signs of Milesian influence are the calm, conversational delivery of the title track and the newfound lyricism in Adderley’s playing that followed from his nightly experience at the trumpeter’s side.”
The music here is simply amazing, but the good news for us audiophiles is that it’s also one of the BEST SOUNDING BLUE NOTE ALBUMS we know of, if not The Best.
This vintage Blue Note pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of Somethin’ Else Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1958
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Setting the Record for Straight Ahead Jazz
After doing this shootout in 2015, the current consensus here at Better Records is that this album deserves to hold three — count ’em, three — somewhat related titles:
One, The Best Sounding Blue Note record we have ever played.
Two, The Best Sounding Jazz Record we have ever played.
Three, Rudy Van Gelder’s Best Engineering (based on the copies we played).
Our shootout winners had more energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space than any jazz recording we have ever heard. The sound was as BIG and BOLD as anything in our audio experience.
Add to that a perfectly balanced mix, with tonality that’s correct from top to bottom for every instrument in the soundfield and you may begin to see why we feel that the best copies of this album set a standard that no other jazz record we’re aware of can meet.
Have we played every Blue Note, every RVG recording, every jazz record? We would never say such a thing (nor should anyone else).
However, in our defense, who could possibly claim to have critically evaluated the sound of more jazz records than we have?
There are multitudes of music experts in the world of jazz. For jazz sound quality the numbers must surely be orders of magnitude smaller, and here is where we’re sure we have more than a few critically valuable advantages: better playback equipment, better record cleaning, stacks of copies of the same title, a scientifically blinded approach and, most importantly of all, a single-minded purpose. All our efforts are in service to only one end, to find the ultimate in analog sound. (Naturally, we leave the sound of CDs and other digital formats to others.)
What to Listen For on Somethin’ Else
The best copies are rich and tubey; many pressings were thin and modern sounding, some were opaque and recessed, and they would lose a lot of points for those shortcomings. We want our Hot Stamper pressings to sound like something RVG recorded in 1961, and the best copies give you that sound, without the surface noise and groove damage the originals doubtless have to offer.
Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all, by the thousands in fact.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Smear is common to most records, and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
Somethin’ Else Indeed
There’s not much we can say about this music that hasn’t been said (please check out the reviews and liner notes in this very listing). It’s obviously one of the most beloved Blue Notes of all time, and with good reason. The wonderful reading of Autumn Leaves is a major highlight for us, but you could really pick any track here and make a case for it.
We consider this a Miles Davis album as much as a Cannonball Adderley album; Miles picked out most of the material and is a featured soloist throughout. The next album Miles recorded was a little number called Kind Of Blue that I imagine some of you might be familiar with…
This is a record we could play every week and never tire of. I just don’t think jazz music gets any better than this.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit worse is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Love for Sale
One for Daddy-O
Dancing in the Dark
A New Look At Somethin’ Else
Bob Blumenthal, 1999
Somethin’ Else was taped on March 9, 1958, nearly a month before the saxophonist made his first studio session under Davis’s leadership. It carries such marks of the Davis input as the stealthy arrangement of “Autumn Leaves,” which had grown much brisker by the time a later Davis band got around to recording it live in 1963, and the venerable “Love For Sale,” which the Davis band recorded for Columbia three months later (though the track remained unreleased for nearly two decades).
Other signs of Milesian influence are the calm, conversational delivery of the title track and the newfound lyricism in Adderley’s playing that followed from his nightly experience at the trumpeter’s side.
Credit for the intimate, economical force of the album should really be shared among Adderley and producer Lion as well as Davis, who was clearly putting several of his most refreshing insights into practice (note his famous comment in Leonard Feather’s notes that “All my inspiration today comes from Ahmad Jamal”).
The outstanding rhythm section that propels the music with such sureness and taste had ties to all three of the session’s prime movers. Hank Jones had been present on Adderley’s first recordings as a leader for Savoy, as well as on several early dates led by Cannonball’s brother Nat. Like Davis and Blue Note iron man Art Blakey, Jones had also been an associate of Adderley’s primary influence, Charlie Parker. Sam Jones was an old Florida friend of Adderley’s who had joined the saxophonist’s quintet at the end of 1956 and preceded to distinguish himself with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and on several recording sessions before signing back on for Adderley’s second and ultimately successful turn as a bandleader.
The instant rapport achieved by the quintet is thus the product of much shared and common history, though the tensile strength that they create throughout created a totally unique feeling that can be attributed to the sensitive musicianship of all concerned, including the supposedly hard bopping leader and drummer.