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Music Review: Cannonball Adderley – The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley

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Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975) was one of America’s premier jazz saxophonist’s during his all too short 20 year career. In addition to leading his own groups, he was a noted sideman for many of the leading jazz artists of the day, including Miles Davis, 1957-59. He also worked outside the jazz medium at times with excursions into rock and roll and rhythm & blues territory.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, his music was positive and ebullient. Yet underlying it all was a very soulful style. His sound evolved from the bop school, to Miles Davis modal phase, to the electrified funk stylings of his later career, to the commercial jazz of his signature song, “Mercy Mercy Mercy.”

His music now returns as a part of the ongoing Concord Music Group’s The Very Best Of series that resurrects some of the better tracks by many of the leading lights of American Jazz’s classic era. The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley is an eclectic mix of 10 tracks that spans his career,but eschews his most commercially successful period with Capital Records. As such, it gives a flavor of his music but the jumps from one era to the next only scratch the surface of his sound and style.

The first and oldest track from 1958, “A Little Taste,” finds him playing with such stalwarts as pianist Bill Evans and trumpet player Blue Mitchell. His solo was one of the better excursions of his early career and is a fine introduction to his music.

“This Here” is an 11 minute live track recorded at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, October 20, 1959, with his quintet. He is backed by cornet player Nat Adderley, bassist Sam Jones, pianist Bobby Timmons, and drummer Louis Hayes. His lengthy solos soar over the instrumental foundations as his soulful style looks ahead to his fusions of soul and jazz.

“Know What I Mean” found him in a simpler setting as he and pianist Bill Evans are backed by only a bass and drums. The interplay between Evans and Adderley make you wish the song was longer than its five minutes.

The jump ahead to 1975, the year of his death at age 46, has synthesizer player George Duke on hand, which gave him a far different musician to play off and against. The electric rhythms present a nice example of just how far his sound had evolved and the direction it was headed.

Cannonball Adderley has been gone almost four decades, but his music still sounds vibrant. The power of his playing and the joyful and soulful sounds he could coax from his instrument are always worth a listen. The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley is a nice slice of his music and will leave you wanting more.

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