Listen to this track by famously jovial alto saxophonist, and soul-jazz exponent Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley with a live performance of pianist Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy”, a track that brings together Adderley’s love of jazz as filtered through gospel music and rhythm & blues. The track appears on Adderley’s 1966 quasi-live LP Mercy Mercy Mercy Live at ‘the Club’.
Cannonball Adderley had long invested in R&B, often appearing on R&B albums under pseudonyms so as to escape the ire of a narrow-minded jazz press. One of those psuedonyms was Buckshot Lafonke, which would later be an album title by saxophonist Branford Marsalis, himself a jazz musician who was also a dabbler in non-jazz fields, and himself an older brother of a jazz trumpeter (Cannonball had Nat Adderley, and Branford has Wynton…).
But, despite any ideas that jazz is the purer form of music, the fact is that the blues, and gospel music play into it. And Adderley brought out these elements early on for audiences, in addition to being more than competent in a hard bop style. Ironically to some perhaps, this made him a pretty popular jazzman. And he was known for being an extremely affable man on and off of the stage which made his stage presence a joy with audiences and band members alike.
Yet this is not to mean that he couldn’t be assertive. There is the tale of Adderley’s run in with the Nation of Islam, who had some issues with Adderley’s penchant for putting together racially integrated bands, such as the one that recorded this very track. Adderley’s response to them was respectful, but firm. To the question of why he hired a white pianist, Joe Zawinul (composer of this song) to play in his group instead of an African-American one, Adderley had this to say, and I paraphrase:
“Until you show me a black man who can play as well as he can, and shows up on time, then I’d thank you to run your religion, and I’ll run my little band.”
That’s kind of hard to argue with.
For more information about Cannonball Adderley and his brother Nat Adderley too, I suggest that you check out this entry on All About Jazz.