Today, I am reviewing the Cannonball Adderley Omnibook that is published by Hal Leonard. This great book of transcriptions was created by Chris “Doc” Stewart who also transcribed the Sonny Rollins Omnibook that I reviewed earlier in the year. I bought this book after receiving a gift card from a student of mine. I went online to see what I could get with it and when I saw the title “Cannonball Adderley Omnibook”, I clicked on “Buy Now” immediately without a second thought as I have been a huge Cannonball fan since I was a kid.
Before I get into the book, let me just say what a force of nature Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was. I remember first hearing him on an album I got from the library when I was in high school. I don’t remember what that album was (Pretty sure it was either “Somethin’ Else or Live in San Francisco”) but I remember being blown away by what I heard. Until that point in time, all I had listened to for alto players was Jay Beckenstein, Charlie Parker, Dave Sanborn and Hank Crawford. These are all vastly different players with different styles. When I first heard Cannonball I was mesmerized by the fact that he seemed to fuse incredible bebop lines similar to Charlie Parkers with the tough emotive bluesy sounds that I loved in the playing of Dave Sanborn and Hank Crawford. I was in love!
That being said, for whatever reason I always found Cannonball much harder to understand than many other players I was listening to. Although Charlie Parker blew my mind, I kind of understood what he was doing and thinking harmonically. (Not that I could do it……) With Cannonball there was so many added elements to his solos that it was hard to focus on what he was actually playing.
- First, there were all these bluesy bends, trills, growls and falls to try to figure out.
- Secondly, Cannonball loved to play with the time. One measure he is laying behind the beat and the next he is playing on top of the beat. (I remember trying to transcribe a Cannonball line in high school and for the life of me I could not figure out how to write out the rhythms of it.)
- Thirdly, Cannonball’s articulation and accents were so varied and unpredictable that it was hard for me to figure out what he was articulating and accenting.
- Fourthly, Cannonball’s understanding of harmony was no joke! At times he sounds so bluesy and simple but when you start transcribing the lines you see all sorts of “genius” notes being played over the harmony. Although he could play the tar out of the blues scale, Cannonball had total freedom on the changes.
The Cannonball Adderley Omnibook
Another thing I remember thinking when I listened to Cannonball, was the authority with which he played. I still think that to this day. When I hear recordings with Miles playing a solo followed by Coltrane, Cannonball then comes in like he owns the place. His tone is clear and fat. His energy is focused and alive. There is an electricity in his sound and playing that is unique to “Cannonball” in my mind. I couldn’t wait to dig into this transcription book!!
The Cannonball Adderley Omnibook is created with the same standard of excellence as the other Hal Leonard Omnibooks. It is coil bound so it is easy to open on a music stand and it stays open and flat when you are reading from it. The coils are big enough that it is easy to change the pages quickly on the fly. The book is 264 pages long and has 49 solos in it. Here is the complete list:
The Cannonball Adderley Omnibook Song List
*I will add that sometimes you have to do some searching and research to find each version of these songs. Most of them can be found on Youtube. One example is “You Got It” which is from the 1959 recording “The Quintet in San Francisco”. I have that album but when I played “You Got It” the solo was different. I was a bit confused but when I started searching Youtube, I found out that there were alternate takes of this song. The transcription doesn’t say it is an alternate take however.
The Cannonball Adderley Omnibook
The first thing I noticed about the Cannonball Adderly Omnibook is that Chris “Doc” Stewart went above and beyond in the details included in these transcriptions. In many of the transcriptions, there are trumpet lines by Miles included, piano lines (many with the voicing written out), bass cues, three part harmony lines when there are three parts in the melody such as when Cannonball is playing with Miles and Coltrane. During the rests it tells you what instrument is soloing or if there is trading fours with drums going on. All of these specifics make it so much easier to find where you are in the transcriptions.
Another great feature is that the tunes are included on every transcription. Many transcriptions these days only include the solos because of copyright limitations but Hal Leonard has included these great melodies and written them out in detail.
There are a ton of articulation markings throughout each solo to help with how to play these solos like Cannonball. As I look through the book I see all sorts of, slurs, accents, staccato markings, ghost notes, grace notes, scooped notes, etc…….
It is also obvious that Chris “Doc” Stewart did not just fill in the known chords of each tune over the transcriptions but added the details of the chords even when there were alterations or substitutions. You can easily see this as you look through each tune and compare the chords of each chorus. Many times there are differences in each chorus as you compare chords. This is a cool feature for those of us interested in the harmonies going on behind these solos.
I’ve read a few reviews online that seemed pretty hard on this book. They were basically complaining that there were too many details included in the book and it makes it harder to read. Although I can understand that opinion, I also think it is cool to see all these added details. To see the harmony lines written in that Miles played might make it a little harder to read but how cool is it to see Miles’s line written out in the music over the alto sax line? All the accents, bends, slurs, falls, etc…..make it harder to read but the transcriber is trying to accurately capture what he is hearing Cannonball playing on the recordings.
The bottom line is that what Cannonball is playing is hard! If you take a look through the book, most of the solos are at 200+ tempos. Cannonball is playing fast with all sorts of articulations, rhythms, bends, falls, scoops, etc……..It’s not easy to capture all of these details on a transcription. I for one, am glad Chris “Doc” Stewart has attempted to capture as much as he has on these pages.
The one element of the book layout that I wish was different, is that the key signature is only on the first line of each page. I understand why this was done for the sake of giving more space to the notes, but when I was reading the transcription many times I would forget the key signature, look at the beginning of the line and think it was in C. I would then remember that the key signature is at the top of the page and have to look up there. It’s not a big deal but just something I have to remember when reading the music.
There is so much more I could write about, I truly am in love with Cannonball’s playing and what is captured on these pages in this book! It is just a plethora of incredible bop lines, licks, phrasings and melodic ideas that can be worked on for a lifetime. Amazing work by Chris “Doc” Stewart!! I would have loved to have this book on my stand next to the Charlie Parker Omnibook when I was a kid!
Great job by Hal Leonard in creating another great Omnibook in their collection that includes John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Pass, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and now Cannonball Adderley. You can get the book from Amazon. (Hover your mouse over each ad below to see which instrument each book is for)
If you end up getting the Cannonball Adderley Omnibook please feel free to come back and share your thoughts and comments with all of us below. If you have other thoughts about Cannonball, I would love to hear them also. Thank you to Cannonball Adderley for who you were and your amazing contribution to this music. Now, I’m going to work on the “Spontaneous Combustion” and “Stardust” solos a bit…….. Thanks, Steve