Cannonball's Canon


Julian "Cannonball" Adderley left the languid warmth of Florida to make his mark in New York City, but packed plenty of heat in his alto saxophone. One of the new Very Best collections more or less chronologically compiles The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley from early acoustic Riverside recordings through electric sessions recorded for Fantasy in the mid-1970s.

Cannonball's voracious alto, most often accompanied by brother Nat's cornet, ravishes every tune except for an electrified update of Nat's famous "Jive Samba," which he sings on soprano.  A live version of "This Here" features composer Bobby Timmons on piano plus Nat's razor-sharp chops, and swivel-hips through that glorious intersection of jazz, blues, gospel and soul. A live recording also exercises another famous Nat tune, "Work Song."

But while you've probably heard "Jive Samba" or "Work Song" before, this collection also presents less famous gems. The title track of Inside Straight (OJC, 1992) is a soul-jazz stomp, which Cannonball digs down and dirty while the rhythm section churns up the funk. And I never knew that Adderley co-led a session with Milt Jackson, whose cool blue vibes serve swinging counterpoint to Adderley's sharp but mellow alto, but the title track to their collaborative Things Are Getting Better (Riverside, 2005) sure makes it sound worth looking up.

This Very Best list of contributing musicians reminds how many great musicians passed through Adderley's bands, such as pianists Bill Evans and Weather Report co-founder Joe Zawinul, ethnomusicologist Yusef Lateef and trumpeter Blue Mitchell.