Three by Cannonball Adderley

Cannonball Adderley Takes Charge

In 1963 Julian “Cannonball” Adderley moved from the Riverside label, where he had recorded some fifteen albums of material, to Capitol Records, where he would find some of his greatest success. Cannonball Adderley Takes Charge presents one of seven master tapes that Capitol acquired along with Adderley himself. Produced by Orrin Keepnews, the recording presents Adderley in spring of 1959. He is accompanied throughout by pianist Wynton Kelly, one of jazz music’s most tasteful and empathetic sidemen, as well as a swinging soloist. On four tracks bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb sit in, while the final five selections find brothers Percy and Albert Heath filling those roles.

This is a straight ahead blowing session, and Adderley plays exceptionally throughout. One can still readily hear the influence of Charlie Parker, but as always Adderley is one of the few altoists of the post-Bird era that doesn’t sound like a carbon copy of Parker. All the tunes here, except for a heavy blues number penned by Adderley, are standards.

At the time this album was recorded, Adderley was already playing with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue sextet along with John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. He was about to go back out on his own as a leader, signing to Capitol for what was to be the most fruitful part of his recording career. In many ways, as Keepnews suggests in his liner notes, Cannonball Takes Charge is something of a closing chapter to the story of this major artist’s early career.

Fiddler On the Roof

In September of 1964, Adderley took his sextet comprised of brother Nat Adderley (cornet), Charles Lloyd (tenor, flute), Joe Zawinul (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums) into Capitol’s L.A. studios to record four tracks that were intended as single (45 rpm) releases of compositions that had been released in more extended live versions. Nat Adderley’s “Little Boy with the Sad Eyes” and Andre Previn;s “Goodbye Charlie” were recorded as singles, but two Charles Lloyd-penned tunes, “Sweet Georgia Bright” and “Island Blues” were never previously issued, and can be heard as bonus tracks on Cannonball Adderley’s Fiddler on the Roof.

Produced by Capitol producer David Axelrod, who worked on most of Adderley’s Capitol output, Fiddler features the Adderley sextet’s take on eight musical numbers from the Broadway show. Donald Effens points out in his liner notes that Adderley recorded the tracks only a month after the show opened on Broadway, a fact that demonstrates how good an ear Adderley had—he seemed to realize clearly that the score had staying power and could provide an excellent basis for his group’s improvisations.

At first this sounds like one of those concepts that was doomed to failure, a weird underlying concept that pairs a jazz musician with wholly inappropriate music, but in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Possibly because the project originated with Cannonball himself, the arrangements are warm and beautiful, and there is no feeling of ‘novelty’ about them. “Sabbath Prayer” has a New Orleans feel to it, and “Chavaluh’ and instrumental number used during a dream sequence, builds, ‘Bolero’-style, from Lloyd’s flute statement to a full blast from Cannonball and Nat Adderley. The tender ballad “Do You Love Me?” features Lloyd’s beautiful tenor sax as liquid as his later work made him famous for.

The four bonus tracks mentioned earlier give an equally compelling argument for the greatness of this particular group of musicians. “Sweet Georgia Bright” is especially powerful, with both Adderley and Lloyd pulling off really brilliant solos. Through its seldom mentioned by most writers and listeners, Fiddler on the Roof is an excellent outing by Cannonball and his band.

Why Am I Treated So Bad?

In 1966 Adderley and Axelrod recorded the now classic Mercy Mercy Mercy live in the Capitol L.A. studio. An audience was brought in and the band recorded their material live with no editing. The combination of Adderley’;s warm, communicative style of introducing his tunes, an ‘inside’ crowd, wound up with booze and soulful jazz and the group’s knockout repertoire made that album a large success. So naturally, the concept was repeated for the follow-up album, Why Am I Treated So Bad?

The follow-up is very much the equal of Mercy Mercy Mercy performance-wise. The band opens with “Mini Mama” by Curtis Fuller, a full adult dose of the thing called soul jazz that Cannonball had been so instrumental in creating. The title track, written by Roebuck “Pops” Staples and recorded by the Staple Singers, features Joe Zawinul doing his soulful thing on Fender Rhodes electric piano, raising the temperature just as he had on his own “Mercy Mercy Mercy” only six months previous.

The fact is that there is more than the blues and gospel-fueled soul jazz on both albums, but particularly on Why Am I Treated So Bad? Zawinul’s “One for Newk” is a hard bop number that might have found its way onto an Art Blakey recording, “Yvette” is a gorgeous ballad, and Nat Adderley’s “The O ther Side” is a reliably modal number.

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