Blue Note Records is celebrating 75 years of existence by giving numerous key titles from their incomparable catalog high-quality vinyl reissues, and it’s fitting that we begin our tribute to the label’s longevity with a look at one of their very finest releases, the great alto saxophonist Julian Cannonball Adderley’s 1958 masterwork Somethin’ Else.
The LPs of Blue Note’s classic-era are aptly described as an embarrassment of riches. Along with loads of amazing music, there is of course the surrounding context, and engaging with the fruits of the imprint’s labors offers a truly enlightening historical narrative. Naturally, it’s only part of jazz’s larger story, but it’s also a highly valuable component since Blue Note is an example where respect for the music trumped pure capitalistic desire.
That respect extended to the amount of studio time given to the musicians, but it also concerned other vital aspects of record production, beginning with the use of engineer Rudy Van Gelder and ending with the company’s justly celebrated graphic design. Blue Note didn’t have the market cornered on either the Van Gelder touch or the manufacturing of handsome album jackets, for it really was a fantastic era in terms of both fidelity and sharply conceived presentation, but throughout the salad days of Modern Jazz (and for a good while afterward) the label was at the forefront.
Somethin’ Else is one of many excellent Van Gelder jobs, but some may evaluate its sleeve as solid but not spectacular. Please allow me to disagree. While I don’t think it’s one of the very greatest of Blue Note covers, it is nicely pared down to only essential information and is a fine model of strong but subtle construction; obviously the large black space, but also the contrast with the white lettering, and then the font, bold type that possesses just a hint of distinctiveness. Add the further contrasting element of color, with green for the leader and blue for his band.