and thoroughly unforgettable 1961 album brings together the high-spirited
Cannonball Adderley and pianist Bill Evans, who had both worked
with Miles Davis just two years earlier, along with the Modern Jazz
Quartet rhythm section of Percy Heath and Connie Kay. The juxtaposition
of these two jazz giants and their contrasting styles, seems to
have brought out some of the best playing from both of them. Evans
is heavily featured in intros and outros, as well as with his reprertoire
staples "Elsa" and his well-known "Waltz For Debby".
His playing here is enthralling, exuberant and melodic, being spurred
on by Cannon's warmth, and his bouncy improvised melodies on the
more up tunes, aided by and the cozy charm and accompaniment of
Heath and Kay.
This is indeed one of
those rarest of sessions -- every track is a gem, and almost all
of the solos are without a doubt inspired. For professional musicians,
these would be ideal for study transcriptions in the improvisational
art of jazz. Cannonball's sweet treatments of Gordon Jenkins' poignant
"Goodbye" and Frank Sinatra's gorgeous "Nancy"
display a ballad artistry not always emphasized in contemporary
writings about the artist; often invoking a Benny Carter approach.
Bill Evans, (sharing almost equal billing with Cannon on the album
cover) was perhaps at his first creative peak here in 1961, and
is far more than a sideman: he makes every note count, and consice
statements flow from his sensual, yet never maudlin piano. His playing
on Earl Zindars' beautiful waltz "Elsa" rivals the many
other versions he did over the years, as he shapes and carefully
hones every phrase. That "inner conviction" he often spoke
about in interviews, is most apparent here, and again on "Nancy."
It would only be three months after this album was completed that
Evans' classic trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian would be recording
"live" at the Village Vanguard -- recordings which became
his most popular and critically acclaimed albums ever.
Make no mistake, these
guys swing too on this session, and bright and airy it is --notably
on the often neglected "Toy" by Clifford Jordan, (listen
to Cannonball's "laughing" sax motifs and the piano interplay
too) and the rousing Gershwin classic "Who Cares". (The
CD gives us a previously unreleased version which is just as much
fun.) Connie Kay's time is steady and the feeling is light, yet
relentless in its refined groove; his long MJQ association with
Percy Heath bearing much fruit and spurring on the soloists.
It is not often that a
jazz album invokes such intelligent romanticism, without being corny
in the least, yet peppered with such joyous swinging. "Know
What I Mean" creates a definable and exquisite mood thoughout,
and I wouldn't doubt that many romantic evenings were spent with
this classic LP on the turntable in the early sixties. Many Julian
Adderly fans have said this is some of their favorite work by him,
and the same could be said of Evans' superb performance as well.
The sound of the recording
is also quite remarkable for the time, which contributes to the
overall freshness of these sessions. That these players were all
at the top of their form, and outwardly projecting such joy and
innate musicality only adds luster to their stature as legends,
and it all makes this album one that will keep playing in your head
for a long, long time.