“MERCY, MERCY, MERCY”
On this day, September 15, 1928, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, was born in Tampa, FL. After his music studies in Tallahassee in 1948, he became a high school band director at the Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale before moving to New York in 1955 with the intention of pursuing graduates studies there.
However, after sitting in with Oscar Pettiford’s band at the Cafe Bohemia, the alto saxophonist became an instant sensation, hailed by many as the musician most likely to inherit the mantle of the late Charlie Parker. Despite misguided promotional efforts to christen him as “the new Bird,” Adderley clearly had his own approach to the horn, which drew on the inspiration of Benny Carter as well as Parker. He took advantage of his early notoriety, however, by forming his first quintet, which featured his younger brother Nat Adderley (below with Cannonball) on cornet. Cannonball drew the attention of Miles Davis, who in 1957-59 featured him in the immortal Miles Davis sextet, alongside another great saxophonist John Coltrane.
In September 1959, Cannonball left Davis and reunited with Nat in a new Cannonball Adderley quintet. Recorded live one month later at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop, the band became an immediate success with their version of Bobby Timmons’s sanctified waltz “This Here” (which is the piece which first drew me to Cannonball). In the 60s the Quintet became a Sextet with the addition of flute and tenor sax in Detroit native Yosef Lateef and a few changes of piano players, ending with Vienna-born keyboardist, Joe Zawinul who later formed the group Weather Report.
Songs made famous by Adderley and his bands besides “This Here” are “The Jive Samba,” “Work Song” (written by Nat Adderley) and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (written by Joe Zawinul). Adderley died of a stroke in 1975. He was buried in the Southside Cemetery, Tallahassee, Florida. Later that year he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. Joe Zawinul’s composition “Cannon Ball” (recorded on Weather Report’s album Black Market) is a tribute to his former leader.
This video is of the Cannonball Adderley Sextet playing live at “The Club” the inimitable “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”…listen, you’ll like it!
There was no video of Cannonball’s version of “This Here” but here is one, close enough, by the Swing Dealers:
And this video gives a little more detail to the story of Cannonball Adderly with a live performance at the Village Vanguard in NY playing in the background: