Cannonball Adderley with Milt Jackson: Things Are Getting Better (2004)
Despite the title, with a lineup like this, it’s hard to believe that things could get any better. The obvious attraction is the chance to see two gifted improvisers in Adderley and Jackson trade licks, and the results sure don’t disappoint. The format is familiar; mostly a selection of blues, soul, and standard tunes played with a minimum of complications. Nothing is groundbreaking or novel; the format is merely an opportunity for a quintet of musicians to get together to create some real heat.
Adderley, who had yet to really make a name for himself with his quintet, rips through hummingbird-like solos with power and gusto on this 1958 date, etching in bluesy licks and dizzying arpeggios over the most routine progressions. Jackson’s relaxed, gentlemanly demeanor serves as a foil for the more restless Adderley, offering up the same cool detachment that worked so well in the MJQ. There’s no sense of the competition that mars similar projects, merely the feel of a couple of old friends swapping stories on the back porch. It goes without saying that the top-notch rhythm section completes its chores nicely, providing the backbone necessary for the fiery soloing on top.
Although the quintet is swimming in familiar channels, they do turn in one classic performance on “Sidewalks of New York,” a passionate and lively rendition that surpasses just about any version that’s out there. But for the most part, listeners can be satisfied with a recording by a group that embraces the basic tenets of jazz: blues, soul, and passionate improvisation. When you’ve got a cast as talented as this one, who wouldn’t expect a five star performance?
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Track Listing: 1. Blues Oriental 2. Things Are Getting Better 3. Serves Me Right (take 5) 4. Groovin' High 5. The Sidewalks of New York (take 5) 6. Sounds for Sid 7. Just One of Those Things 8. Serves Me Right (take 4 9. The Sidewalks of New York (take 4).
Personnel: Cannonball Adderley - alto sax; Milt Jackson - vibes; Wynton Kelly - piano; Percy Heath - bass; Art Blakey - drums.