The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the L.A. area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some Los Angeles TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more peruse previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. This edition we discuss Cannonball Adderley’s Country Preacher.
For those not up on their jazz history, Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley, born on September 15th, 1928, was an alto saxophonist who played jazz during what was known as “the hard bop era” running from the 1950s and 1960s. He is perhaps best remembered for his work with famous trumpet player Miles Davis on such landmark records as the 1959 release Kind of Blue. Adderley also is known for his 1966 crossover hit single “Mercy Mercy Mercy”.
The only album Adderley put out in 1969 was a live release titled Country Preacher. It was recorded at a church meeting of the Chicago chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket in 1969. Adderley takes the lead on alto and soprano saxophones. He is backed by bro Nat Adderley on cornet, Joe Zawinul on keyboards, Roy McCurdy on the drums and in his first appearance ever as a member of the Adderley Quintet Walter Booker on bass.
The album is introduced by none other than the Reverend Jesse Jackson. The six track LP opens on “Walk Tall” which was actually co-written by Zawinul. Adderley and company are quite capable of replicating studio tracks live and waste little time proving this.
The second selection is the title track, “Country Preacher”. Written by Zawinul this piece has its roots in Memphis soil and includes an intro by Adderley in which he mentions saxophonist Ben Branch who was then the director of the Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir. Adderley’s brother, Nat, wrote the following piece titled “Hummin'”. This is the longest track—clocking in at over 6 and a half minutes– on the album and amply demonstrates the band’s talents.
It’d followed by perhaps the most popular cut on the project “Oh Babe”. This was co-composed by the Adderley brothers and is highlighted by Nat Adderley’s cornet and vocals. Next is a four-part composition titled “Afro-Spanish Omlet”.
The first part is written by Nat Adderley and is named “Umbakwen”. Booker’s jazzy “Soli Tomba” and “Oiga” by Zawinul come next. The piece closes with “Cannonball’s “Marabi” Finally, this critically-acclaimed album ends on “The Scene” which is an effective collaboration by Zawinul and Nat Adderley who was obviously always a reliable source of darting cornet choruses and new themes.
The material here makes it quite clear that Adderley learned from Charlie Parker how to cruise comfortably against the rhythm, how to swing sixteenth notes through musical scales arranged akin to mine fields and finally how to bend his mouth around the blues until he had squeezed them dry. In truth, by playing Parker-like lines that were easier for listeners to follow, Adderley is partially responsible for institutionalizing Parker.
Released later that same year (1970) on the Capitol label, the album spent two months on the R&B charts. It was a critical success both musically and sociologically. It would be one to inspire such session players as Tom Scott, Dave Sanborn and numerous lesser-known musicians. They went on to emulate Adderley’s fancy-free howl and deep-fried musical attack.
Traditions were born of this material. Cannonball Adderley’s Country Preacher/Cap. SKAO-404 would become a favorite of R&B and jazz fans everywhere. It remains an essential part of any truly comprehensive music collection.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.