The Cannonball Adderley solo on Flamenco Sketches
(Kind of Blue
Despite all the banging on about modal jazz and the fact that Flamenco Sketches
is very clearly modal, it is nonetheless one of the most perfect pieces of jazz ever recorded. It is purest improvisation. It is free soloing over an integrated and conducive backing where everything sounds 'together'. The furthest state removed from indulgent noodling and ego-exercises on a technical scale; this is emotional and affective music where the means and message merge to become art. It is gentle, contemplative and meditatively sparse yet reassuringly intimate; its emotional contour taking in warm comfort in one mode and the soul’s weathering of the storm in the next, before returning again to comfort in the late of the night. It is one of the great triumphs of the blues ballad form. It is the heart of music laid bare with grace and maturity.
And it’s Cannonball Adderley’s solo that I find particularly graceful. Coltrane takes the first solo, navigating comfortably over the three modes and introducing some of the measures Cannonball will develop. The biggest difference between the horn players is that Cannonball has this amazing faculty for lyrical rhythmic grace. His improvised phrasing is strongly suggestive of the human voice. He has a genius for that rhythmic degree between swing and funky. He bends notes up unexpectedly, he quips and pops little phrases; he sings languid one minute then uses plain bop-notes the next. And then he will sustain the most beautiful vibrato note. He is fabulously well-punctuated one of the finest grammarians of rhythmic phrase and finesse in jazz. Coltrane seems more the straight-ahead, lateral line-man in comparison, his soul a different kind of energy. Cannonball is a sheer optimist, pacing his notes between the beats while staying perpetually fresh (I think he is the better complement to Miles’ spare musings Miles also has an acute rhythmic sensibility not immediately apparent). He plants a bold note to clear the air of the last, he sews together heart, tact and intuitive melancholy in a broad sketch of runs and commas, and at 5:12 he performs an amazing, roof-opening octave run that is pure elegiac soul. It is no longer improvisation but pure emotion.
Why is it so humane-affective? Flamenco Sketches
implies that at the pinnacle of pure music and art, you’re likely to find a deeply profound but optimistic sadness, a melancholy emotion of loss tenderly rendered but utterly expressive of soul. A truer kind of beauty.