The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderly

Cannonball Adderly

Concord, 2012

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975) was one of America’s premier jazz saxophonists during his all-too-short twenty-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 between 1957 and 1959. He also worked outside the jazz medium at times with excursions into rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm & blues territory.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Adderly’s music was positive and ebullient; yet underlying it all was a very soulful style. His sound evolved from the bop school, through Miles Davis’ modal phase, to the electrified funk styling 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 ten tracks that spans his career, but eschews his most commercially successful period with the Capitol label. As such, it gives a flavor of his music, but the jumps from one era to the next mean that the album overall only scratches the surface of his sound and style.

The first and oldest track, “A Little Taste” from 1958, finds him playing with such stalwarts as pianist Bill Evans and trumpet player Blue Mitchell. His solo is one of the better excursions of his early career and offers 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 Adderly’s quintet; he is backed by cornet player Nat Adderley, bassist Sam Jones, pianist Bobby Timmons, and drummer Louis Hayes.  His lengthy, soulful solos soar over the instrumental foundations, looking ahead to his later fusions of soul and jazz.

“Know What I Mean” finds 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, brings synthesizer player George Duke onto the scene, giving Adderly 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 before he passed away.

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 that will leave you wanting more.

Rating: B

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