Cannonball Adderley Mercy Mercy MercyListen 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.



3 thoughts on “Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley Performs “Mercy Mercy Mercy”

  1. As much as I love Cannonball’s music, I have to say that I love his onstage banter just as much.

    This is essential music for me. Love the Zawinul era of Adderley’s career.

    1. Well, hello Auto!

      I’m late in arriving to this era of Adderley’s career, being a fan of his late 50s material – specifically his essential Somethin’ Else record. The first time I heard this tune, I stopped everything I was doing to listen. It’s just so joyous!

      And yes, he seems in many ways like the anti-Miles, in that he invited his audience into the performance, made it a more communal affair, rather than just playing for playing’s sake and leaving the audience to sort it out for themselves.

      Cheers for comments, and nice to see you here!

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