Cannonball Adderley with Milt Jackson – Things Are Getting Better (1958; 2013 reissue)

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For all the times that “all-star” dates have let us down, the fault of a basic incompatibility that transcends anyone’s inherent fame, Things Are Getting Better features a pairing that utterly works.

This Riverside project, though headlined by Cannonball Adderley and Milt Jackson, actually represents the combining of two members of the Modern Jazz Quartet (Jackson and bassist Percy Heath) and two future members of the Miles Davis band that would produce Kind of Blue in Adderley and pianist Wynton Kelly. The five-piece unit is rounded out by none other than Art Blakey at the drums.

Together, they mine a bluesy thread that goes back to the earliest playing days for both the saxist Adderley and the vibes man Jackson. The two had originally met in early 1957, on a Quincy Jones-helmed album called Plenty, Plenty Soul, and before that had both previously worked with Ray Charles. Still, their associations with the MJQ and with Davis illustrate that each is capable of transcending the blowing-date cliches often associated with tossed-together big-name dates.

Blakey and Jackson, meanwhile, had shared a bandstand in a 1950s edition of Dizzy Gillespie’s band, while Blakey sat in with Adderley on Somethin’ Else for Blue Note earlier in ’58.

So, there were lengthy connections, mutual understandings, a shared vision. From reliably fiery takes on “Groovin’ High” (recalling their time with Diz) and “One of Those Things,” to the twilit lament “Serves Me Right,” from the Far East exoticisms of Jackson’s “Blues Oriental” to the straight-forward gospel tinges in the title track and “Sidewalks of New York,” Things Are Getting Better — set for reissue as part of the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series on July 23, 2013 — covers the waterfront of textures and moods. This new reissue also includes another take on “Serves Me Right,” as well as the fantastic Adderley-arranged “Sidewalks.”

What holds it all together is what always did, when it came to Adderley and Jackson: A true understanding of bone-deep soul. Featuring a title duo at the peak of their powers, and surrounded by sympathetic and dynamic collaborators, Things Are Getting Better is, in the end, very aptly named.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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