I’ve been revisiting some favorite recordings this week, among them the classic 1958 Cannonball Adderley-led session Somethin’ Else, with Hank Jones, Art Blakey, Sam Jones, and, in a rare appearance as sideman, Miles Davis. The tune I have been stuck on is “One For Daddy-O,” a blues written by Cannonball’s brother Nat that features a flawless blues solo by Miles.
I dug into the liner notes and was reminded of how the critic Leonard Feather used this particular solo as a platform on which to describe the essence of the “deeper and broader blues of today,” refuting a “misinformed” Ebony piece of the era that suggested that “Negroes are ashamed of the blues” and that Miles is “defiantly proud of his ability to show its (the blues) true contemporary meaning.” This is what Feather wrote:
“One for Daddy-O,” dedicated to the popular Chicago disc jockey, Daddy-O Daylie and composed by Cannonball’s brother, Nat, returns to the 12-bar theme, but this time closer to the traditional funky blues spirit, with an inspiring and inspired beat. After the theme it is transmoded into a minor blues, with Julian alternating between simple phrases and double-time statements. Miles’ solo starts out simply, with a plaintive use of the flatted 7th in measures nine and ten of his first chorus; a couple of choruses later he reached higher than we are normally accustomed to expect from a trumpeter generally associated with the middle register of the horn; but the upward movement clearly is a natural outgrowth rather than a contrived effect.
Some months ago there was a complaint, in a misinformed and insensitive article that appeared in Ebony, that “Negroes are ashamed of the blues.” The white author of the piece would doubtless be incapable, on hearing this Davis solo, of perceiving the porcelain-like delicacy of his approach to the blues. Certainly this is not the blues of a man born in New Orleans and raised among social conditions of Jim Crow squalor and poverty, musical conditions of two or three primitive chord changes; this is the blues of a man who has lived a little; who has seen the more sophisticated sides of life in midwestern and eastern settings, who adds to what he has known of hardships and discrimination the academic values that came with mind-broadening experience, in music schools and big bands and combos, in St. Louis and New York and Paris and Stockholm. This is the new, deeper and broader blues of today; it is none the less blue, none the less convincing, for the experience and knowledge its creator brings to it. Far from being ashamed of the blues, Miles is defiantly proud of his ability to show its true contemporary meaning.
The entire piece is worthy of a listen, but Miles’ solo begins at the 2:33 mark of this file: