‘Cannonball plays with much emotion, his sound reaching deep into your heart and soul.’

Cannonball Adderley – Burnin’ in Bordeaux: Live in France 1969

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Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (alto sax); Nat Adderley (cornet); Joe Zawinul (piano, electric piano); Victor Gaskin (bass); Roy McCurdy (drums)

Recorded Alhambra Theatre, Bordeaux, France 14 March 1969

Cannonball Adderley – Poppin’ in Paris: Live at L’Olympia 1972

Elemental Music 5990449

Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (alto sax, soprano sax); Nat Adderley (cornet); George Duke (piano, electric piano); Walter Booker (bass); Roy McCurdy (drums)

Recorded L’Olympia Theatre, Paris, France 25 October 1972

These are special releases in more ways than one. First, they are the latest in a series of Cannonball Adderley alliterative titles curated by producer Zev Feldman (the first was the 2019 release, Swingin’ in Seattle; what next: Dazzlin’ in Detroit?) and deluxe LP and CD editions are being released on Record Store Day, 20 April 2024.

If Zev Feldman is involved you can be sure of a few things: he has tracked down archived music that is well worth hearing; the original recordings have been remastered for the best audio quality; he has worked closely with the artist’s estate to ensure everyone is properly paid, and that the album’s packaging will be sumptuous. That is most certainly the case here.

The two album releases showcase the Cannonball Adderley quintet performing in France in 1969 and 1972. The concerts were recorded by French broadcaster ORTF and the original tapes archived in the French national audio-visual archive. These source tapes have been remastered and the results are superb. Bootleg versions of both concerts are in circulation, and the difference in sound quality is like night and day (the bootlegs are also incomplete concerts).

And what you don’t get with a bootleg is extensive and excellent packaging. The CD versions come as a double fold-out digipak, adorned with photos, and a 20-page booklet with rare photos, essays by Feldman and jazz journalist Bob Blumenthal, plus interviews and testimonies from various musicians, including drummer Roy McCurdy, who along with the Adderley brothers, appears on both releases.

Bob Blumenthal notes that there are many great alto saxophonists in the post- Charlie Parker period, adding that Cannonball Adderley was the most influential on future generations. Adderley was virtuoso player as Miles Davis recalled in his biography, on seeing Cannonball play, ‘Cannonball just fucked me up with the way he played the blues…Everybody knew right away this big motherfucker was one of the best players around.’ Adderley had it all – swing, tone, power, feeling. Miles would later expand his first great quintet with the addition of Adderley, who played on the albums Milestones and Kind of Blue. Miles was even a sideman on Adderley’s 1958 album Somethin’ Else. When the saxophonist handed in his notice to Miles in 1959, he was offered a massive annual salary as an incentive to stay, but Adderley decided to form his own band, with his brother Nat, who played cornet.

Cannonball was a big man with a big heart, much loved by both musicians and audiences. He was an inspirational band leader, keen to explore new musical directions – these releases show how his music in the late 60/early 70s encompassed hard bop, classical, soul-jazz and jazz-rock. He had a great rapport with audiences – his announcements were warm, witty, funny and informative. Sometimes, he introduced a song at great length, but never bored his audience – evidence of this can be found on the Burnin’ in Bordeaux release.

Cannonball was an intelligent and articulate man, as George Duke – who played in the 1972 concert – recalled in an interview with this writer, ‘Cannonball was a walking historian of music – not only jazz. He was very philosophical and very informative. I used to sit and listen to him for hours when we would drive from one gig to the next. He was in the seat next to me and he would just be talking and I would be soaking up all this stuff. He’d talk about Miles and Sarah Vaughn, whatever – just like they were next door neighbours. Little stories about what happened on the bandstand or backstage with these people.’

Both bands feature keyboardists who later played pivotal roles in the rise of jazz-rock fusion – Joe Zawinul, who would work with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way, before forming Weather Report, and George Duke, whose solo albums and work with Stanley Clarke reached wide audiences.

Burnin’ in Bordeaux: Live in France 1969 features Cannonball and Nat, along with Zawinul, who had previously played with Maynard Ferguson and Dinah Washington. Bassist Victor Gaskin was a New Yorker who became part of the West Coast jazz scene. He joined Cannonball’s band in 1966, staying for four years. Drummer Roy McCurdy joined the band in 1965, remaining in the drummer’s chair until Cannonball’s death from a stroke in 1975 – he was 46. At the time of writing (April 2024) McCurdy is the only surviving member of this band, and the album is dedicated to memories of the deceased.

The concert is on two CD discs: the first set consists of five tunes spread over fifty minutes, and the second set has seven tunes lasting 47 minutes. In his liner notes, Bob Blumenthal notes that Cannonball’s bands featured a long list of talented keyboardists including, Bobby Timmons, Victor Feldman, Hal Galper and George Duke, but adds that it is safe to say that Joe Zawinul is the classic Adderley pianist. Zawinul was with the band for nine years and encouraged by Cannonball to compose – he wrote many tunes, including classics like ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,’ and ‘Walk Tall.’

The 1969 concert opens with a Zawinul composition, ‘The Scavenger,’ a fizzing tune in 7/4. Cannonball’s solo is a torrent of sound – notes seem to pour out of his horn and soar off into the stratosphere. His horn rages over McCurdy’s pounding drums and his fiery phrases are laced with touches of vibrato. Nat Adderley picks up the solo slot, beginning almost tentatively – he seems to be coaxing the notes out of his horn, before bursting out with a slew of explosive flurries. In a recent review, my Jazz Views colleague Jack Kenny stated that Nat Adderley was ‘underrated and underappreciated’ and one has to agree with this verdict on listening to these albums.

‘Maha De Carnival’ (aka ‘Theme From Black Orpheus’) is a bossa nova featuring Gaskin on arco bass. The band fires up an exciting ten-minute rendition of Nat Adderley’s ‘Work Song’ and the speed, phrasing and power of his solo is literally breathtaking. Next up is the ballad ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story (Cannonball’s introduction to the number describes Leonard Bernstein as ‘a musician in New York who leads a big band…the Philharmonic Symphony of New York.’).

Cannonball plays with much emotion, his sound reaching deep into your heart and soul. The first set ends with a Pop Staples (of the Staples Singers) composition, ‘Why Am I Treated So Bad?’ a blues number with a slice of funk, as Zawinul switches to electric piano. The song’s theme, played by the horn section, and the overall feel of the sound bring to mind Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’, while Zawinul’s long, funky solo (and McCurdy’s furious drumming) at the coda, reminds one of the closing section of Miles’s ‘It’s About That Time.’ The band plays a brief rendition of the jaunty tune ‘The Scene’ and then departs.

The opening number of the second set, ‘Experience In E’ is an example of how Cannonball would sometimes surprise and challenge his audience, or at the very least, take them outside of their comfort zone. The 13-minute number was written by William S. Fischer and based on a Zawinul melody. The tune was composed for the quintet and a symphony orchestra and wouldn’t be released until the following year on the album The Cannonball Adderley Quintet and Orchestra, so this was all new ground for the audience. The band plays the allegro section of the tune, which pulses with energy. Cannonball’s scurrying solo is followed by Nat’s, who plays a short ballad section before letting rip. He ends his solo with some deep growling sounds before Zawinul begins his long solo, accompanied by some dazzling fills from McCurdy.

The band follow it with a vibrant performance of Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Blue ‘N’ Boogie,’ while Zawinul’s keyboard talents are to the fore on Ellington’s ‘Come Sunday.’ Half of the four-minute performance of ‘Walk Tall’ is given over to Cannonball’s entertaining explanation of what the term means (it’s to do with surviving against adversity). Zawinul plays the electric piano on ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,’ and the tune’s mix of blues, gospel and jazz helps explains why it was such a huge hit for the band. The closer, ‘The Scene’ is followed by an encore, ‘Oh Babe’ a blues number that has Nat singing like a man who has lost his woman and looking for a new love (with some backup vocals provided by Cannonball). Nat has a strong, soulful voice and it’s a fine conclusion to a concert full of fire, fun and finesse.

Poppin’ in Paris is a single disc release, with both sets lasting a total of 79 minutes. In order to squeeze everything onto a single disc, almost all of Cannonball’s comments have been removed. In this band, Joe Zawinul is replaced by George Duke, who started out as a straight-ahead jazz pianist before working with Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa (Duke would return to Zappa after a two-year stint with Cannonball’s band). Like Zawinul, Duke embraced electronic keyboards, and in this concert, he plays the electric piano with an echoplex and a ring modulator to create additional tones and effects (such as delay and wah-wah).Bassist Walter Booker had played with Stan Getz, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. As with the 1969 concert, McCurdy is the only living member of this quintet, and the album is dedicated to the lost quartet of musicians.

The year before the Paris concert, the quintet had released a live album, The Black Messiah, which included a handful of guest musicians – a guitarist, two percussionists, a tenor saxophonist and a clarinettist. Poppin’ in Paris has a much leaner band and opens with George Duke’s composition, ‘Black Messiah’ a 20-minute mid-tempo opus. Duke begins on acoustic piano and then three minutes in, switches to electric piano. McCurdy lays down a cross-stick, metronome-like grove, and indeed, there are times when the piece sounds like Miles Davis’s ‘It’s About That Time,’ (for example, listen at around 4:44), further proof of how influential the In A Silent Way album was on the development of jazz-rock fusion.

The horn section plays the anthemic theme and throughout the tune, Duke deploys the ring modular to add a touch of wah-wah to the sound. Cannonball solos, playing a series of fast runs and riffs, followed by Nat, who plays an equally energetic solo, his horn screaming and squealing in places. Duke takes over with a long solo on electric piano, although Duke plays at a pace, he also exhibits great delicacy and lightness of touch on the keyboard, creating soft ripples of sound, enhanced at times with the echoplex.

The jazz standard ‘Autumn Leaves’ is played at a brisk pace and Cannonball, Nat and Duke all play fizzing solos. The Walter Booker-composed ‘Soli Tomba’ is a tender ballad played as a duet with Duke on piano and Booker on arco bass. ‘’Walk Tall’ is the first of six Zawinul compositions or co-compositions on the album. It has a funkier feel than the one played by the 1969 band, with Duke using the ring modulator to much effect on the piece.

‘Doctor Honoris Causa’ (Zawinul’s tribute piece to Herbie Hancock) is a near-twenty-minute piece, which has Cannonball playing soprano sax and Duke a mix of acoustic and electric piano. Although the soprano sax is Cannonball’s second instrument, he shows good command of an instrument that can sound shrill and unfocused in the wrong hands. The bustling number sees Cannonball, Nat and Duke all play extended solos. It’s a rousing performance.

Nat Adderley’s ‘Hummin’ is a funky number driven by McCurdy’s heavy backbeat and Duke’s funky riffs on electric piano. ‘Zawinul’s ‘Directions’ (also played by Weather Report, and the opening number for many Miles Davis concerts between 1969 and 1971) is energised by Cannonball’s lighting flurries and Booker’s 16th note riffs. McCurdy plays a furious drum solo on this piece. The band ends with a short (less than three minutes) version of ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,’ before playing their closing theme tune, ‘The Scene.’ There is no encore.

Hats off once again to Zev Feldman for getting this music released and giving the care and attention it deserves. This is a jewel of a release and a real treat for jazz fans. These will most definitely be on my albums of the year list.