Cannonball Adderley

The Black Messiah

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Still immersed in the burgeoning electronic jazz-rock explosion of the times, Cannonball Adderley goes further toward a rapprochement with rock and soul audiences than ever before on this fascinating, overlooked double album. For starters, he recorded it live at West Hollywood's Troubadour club, then known as a showcase for folk and rock acts. He also imported additional players into his quintet, expanding into exotic percussion effects with Airto Moreira (whom Miles Davis had previously featured), hard rock guitar with sessionman Mike Deasy, fiery tenor sax from the young Ernie Watts, and occasional seasoning from conguero Buck Clarke and clarinetist Alvin Batiste. "Now I don't give a damn whether you can count or not, we still are the Cannonball Adderley Quintet!," quoted the leader, who is in loose, loquacious form throughout the set (the jazz world badly misses his witty verbal intros). With Joe Zawinul flying off to Weather Report, his replacement is an even more electronically minded pianist, George Duke, who levitates into the outer limits with his Echoplex and ring modulator and proves to be a solid comper. But Zawinul is not forgotten, for the band pursues a long, probing, atmospheric excursion on his tune, "Dr. Honouris Causa." Adderley generously gives Deasy two contrasting feature numbers -- "Little Benny Hen," a raucous, amateurishly sung blues/rock piece and "Zanek," a great countrified tune with an avant-garde freakout at the climax -- and all of the other guests save Clarke get single solo features. Brother Nat Adderley gamely visits the outside on cornet, Cannonball doubles with increasing adventurousness on soprano and alto as bassist Walter Booker and drummer Roy McCurdy deftly handle all of the stylisyic changes. Cannonball adeptly keeps pace with Miles Davis, his former boss -- the driving "The Chocolate Nuisance" could easily be a first cousin of "Pharoah's Dance" on Bitches Brew -- while not abandoning his funky soul-jazz base nor the special audience-friendly ambience of his concerts.

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