Cannonball Plays Zawinul represents the exquisite fruits of the musical relationship between saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and pianist/composer Joe Zawinul. Recorded between 1961 and 1971, all cuts were either written or co-written by Zawinul, and, except for one piece ("Dr. Honorus Causa"), he also serves as part of the various combos. All of the work here remains loose but nonetheless retains a sparkling intensity. The longer cuts, in particular, show a group of musicians searching out the free parameters of post-bop without ever drifting off into space. Both "74 Miles Away" and "Money in the Pocket," 14 and ten minutes respectively, maintain strong central themes, filled with rhythm and melody, while allowing Adderley, Zawinul, drummer Roy McCurdy, bassist Victor Gaskin, and cornetist Nat Adderley lots of elasticity to develop their ideas. While most of these pieces were recorded in the mid-'60s and provide the album with a certain unity, a wide aesthetic gap exists between 1961's straightforward "One Man's Dream" and 1971's adventurous "Dr. Honorus Causa." So in one way, Cannonball Plays Zawinul provides a portrait of two artists who kept reaching beyond the obvious to find their muse. The album is an adventurous and thrilling document, sure to please fans of both players and anyone who enjoys challenging post-bop.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.