Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cannonball Adderley

A few months ago, after having spent way to many consecutive hours traveling in subways, cars, airplanes, and vans, Frank Basile and I had one of those conversations most people stop having when they're fourteen years old, one that began, "If you could play in a frontline with any other horn player, living or dead, who would it be?". Pretty dorky, I know, but then again, if you're reading this blog, likely indoors on a beautiful, sunny day, it might be time to make some similar personal admissions.... However, it was something I hadn't really thought about, and pretty entertaining to mine jazz history for an answer.

Somehow, Cannonball Adderley has consistently come into my world over the years, and ended up the object of my adolescent fantasy that day. There are so few improvisers who've been able to combine such an combination of elegance, virtuosity, unpredictability, lyricalness, blues, and swing like he did. Every time I hear him, he still sounds modern to me and totally surprises me in how he weaves in and out of changes, even just simple turnarounds. He had one of the most distinct alto and soprano sounds in the history of the saxophone, and conveys such a profound joy in his playing, no matter what the material. This man could make you cry and smile at the same time, and thankfully a few YouTube videos have surfaced recently and allow us to watch him in action. Most people know him for the Miles Davis albums he was on, and later for the original recording (and memorable pre-tune monologue) of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, but check out the stuff in between and you'll definitely find one of the hippest bandleaders of the sixties and seventies. Much of what Joe Zawinul later did with Weather Report certainly came out of Cannonball's band, and even the more commercial ventures that Cannonball released as a solo artist are incredibly compelling and inspired.

There's a pretty impressive tribute site and discography here.

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