The story goes that Reid Miles designed the cover for “Fifty Bucks” paid in cash by Alfred Lion, a “love affair” that lasted for nearly 10 years until Lion’s retirement from Blue Note in 1967. An iconic cover and an even more iconic album which will provide you with endless musical pleasure for the rest of your life.
I begin my arduous journey to list my top 100 records with this one for many reasons, but mostly in honor of my father (Luigi Bassanini) who adored this record and made sure I digested it from a very early age. Originally, I was not a fan of Jazz, and struggled early on, mostly because of Mile Davis Bitches Brew, which scarred me musically and far too complex for young ears.
Somethin’ Else starts with a grammatical error in the title, a slang way of saying “Something” which forces you to extend the O into a U, thus transforming the word into Suumthin’ which automatically separates the “cool cats” vs. the “wanna be white cats”. We start here, Miles Davis returning the favor to Cannonball Adderley for giving up his own band in 1957 to join him and Coltrane into a journey which produced Jazz greats such as Milestones and Kind of Blue. But even as “second chair” Miles was not going to sit there quietly and indeed one of the notable facts of this record is that Miles does not use the mute in ANY of the tracks! Also of note is that in three of the five tracks, it is Miles who begins the melody dialogue, probably a testament to the Star Power which by then surrounded Miles Davis. At the drums we have Art Blakey, who will bloom the following year in “Moanin’” and on this record he masterfully interacts with Sam Jones at the Bass to provide the backbone of this immortal recording.
As to why this record is my first on the list, one must simply drop the needle on “Autumn Leaves”, Track 1, Side 1. It begins with a simple repetitive rift, childlike, with Hank Jones a half beat ahead of Art Blakey and Sam Jones playing catch up on Bass. Like three drunks exiting a New York Bar at 4:00 AM, struggling, it takes them 3 to 4 beats to get on the same page. For 53 Seconds the quintet struggles and fights its way through, high pitch dissonance appearing out of nowhere, as if the men are arguing, and then, just like that, Miles Davis tip toes its way into the conversation, like a smooth cat, silk footed, and the way you will listen to music will be forever altered.
And this is all I will say about this record, other than to ask you to please refrain from multi-tasking while listening to it, do yourself a favor and sit down, Scotch in hand, lights down low, children in bed, and do be careful with it, particularly if your loved one is nearby because if by chance you arrive at “Dancing In The Dark” together, then I cannot be held accountable as to what will happen next.
Alto Saxophone Cannonball Adderley
Bass Sam Jones
Drums Art Blakey
Piano Hank Jones
Trumpet Miles Davis
Producer Alfred Lion
Recorded By Rudy Van Gelder
Photography By Francis Wolff
Cover [Design] Reid Miles
Lacquer Cut By RVG*
Liner Notes Leonard Feather