Forgotten series: Soul jazz saxophonist Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley

by S. Victor Aaron

If someone were to ask me who was the best alto sax player ever, I couldn’t at least not heavily consider Cannonball Adderley, the Miles Davis sideman. He had both technique and soul by the sackful.

Adderley churned out some fine ones even without the Prince Of Darkness’ help.

Four come to mind:

1) Cannonball And Coltrane (1959):
Also released as Cannonball Adderley Quintet In Chicago, this is Miles Davis’ 1959 band sans Davis, recorded just six months before Kind Of Blue.

2) Know What I Mean? (1961):
I should put this record on a “most underrated” list somewhere. Julian’s backing band is Percy Heath, Connie Kay and Bill Evans, and many of the songs are originals by Bill. How can a record by Cannonball and Evans, both at the top of their games, be anything less than spectacular? C’mon.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Jazz pianist Michael Wolff on the lasting importance of his old boss Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.]

3) Best of Cannonball Adderley (Capitol) (1960s):
This is a nice compilation of some of the highlights of Adderley’s Joe Zawinul years. Includes a rousing live version of Zawinul’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy.”

4) Phenix (1975):
Recorded just months before his death, this set applies fresh, contemparary treatments to Cannonball’s sixties favorites. George Duke, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes provide great support, as well as a 19-year-old keyboardist named Michael Wolff.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.